It’s now time for the semi-annual update of my What, Why, When guide to buying an electric vehicle in Australia guide that I started back in 2017.
(“Err, where did the 2020 one go?” I hear you ask. My answer is “whatever happened to 2020??”.
And I hope that one day the need for this sort of article will be gone and my job will be done. That day I expect will be:
- When ICE (internal combustion engine) cars are in the minority and EVs are everywhere,
- The motoring press can tell a kilowatt (kW) from a kilowatt-hour (kWh),
- Petrol stations will be rapidly disappearing, or covered in cobwebs, and
- The general public will have crossed the Electric Vehicle (EV) knowledge threshold to be so comfortable with owning, driving and charging EVs that they will wonder why they ever put up with the inconvenience of finding and using petrol stations. (That last point already applies to anyone whose day-to-day car is now a BEV).
Given the usual trajectory for the uptake of new technology, I expect that day will not be long in coming.
Figure 1. New York: 5th Avenue, 1900 vs 1913
However, given those four criteria have yet to be met, it seems there is still a need for this type of article. Hopefully by the end of this one, I will have either:
- Helped those who have the willingness (and wherewithal) to make the transition now if something already meet their needs and
- For those whose transport (or budgetary) needs aren’t yet met by a BEV: better defined the likely time when that will be.
BEV update for mid-2021.
As seen in Figure 2, worldwide EV sales have been rebounding from their early to mid-2020 pandemic induced drop.
Figure 2. Worldwide monthly Plug-in EV (PEV = BEV plus PHEV) sales, 2018 – 2020
In fact, despite Covid 19, total 2020 EVs sales around the world increased by around 43% over 2019 numbers. (Unlike the worldwide overall fall in ICE vehicle sales in that time).
Here in Australia, recent monthly EV sales have almost reached 2% (from under 1% overall in 2020). Sadly, this is still way south of European or US figures – for instance, the European market share for EVs in 2020 was 10.2% – and in December 2020 was almost 20% of all new car sales.
Figure 3: BEV models currently available in Australia. Image: B. Gaton
Figure 4. BEV models potentially coming to Australia in near term. Image: B. Gaton
In 2019, I also wrote “It was hoped that this year’s crop of BEVs would start breaking the $50,000 on-the-road price point here, but only a light ‘shattering’ has occurred as they go over once the dreaded ORCs (On Road Costs) have been added.”
Well, I am happy to report that the $50k barrier has now been properly broken by one BEV – the MG ZS EV, at $44k on the road. Sadly, unlike overseas pricing, manufacturers here are not keen to cross that price point just yet.
The Ioniq BEV and the 40kWh Nissan Leaf are hovering only just above it, though. Interestingly, the Renault Kangoo ZE van has been moved back above $50k to $53k following its low of $48k in 2019.
Since my 2019 update, the number of BEV models available here has increased from nine to 16 – with perhaps another six or seven to come by the end of this year.
Sadly, we also lost one model (the Renault ZE40 Zoe) with the manufacturer citing poor national EV policies as the reason for ceasing sales of the Zoe. A shame, as the new ZE50 Zoe is a marked improvement on an already great EV.
Whilst this is well up from eight in 2018 and 10 at the end of 2019, we are not well served by world standards. In Europe for instance, you would have around forty or more BEV models to choose from (not including EVs in the popular quadracycle category – such as the Renault Twizy).
Figure 5: Renault Twizy. (Not permitted for use on Australian roads)
For the basic details of the current and soon to come BEVs in Australia – see table 1.
By the way, technically, for the moment the list of new BEVs available here is really 14. This is due to delays in the production of updated versions of the Tesla Model S and Model X. As a result, new stock simply ran out!
However, they are still available to order, provided you are prepared to wait. (Something prospective BEV buyers are still rather too used to).
Table 1: New BEV choices available here (plus some coming soon):
Notes to table 1:
- Bold italic = WLTP test standard results. (System not yet used in Australia. See note 2).
- ADR81/02 test cycle. In Australia, manufacturers are still required to range using the ADR81/02 test cycle. This is the range figure to be found on the Australian Green Vehicle Guide. ADR81/02 is effectively the outdated European NEDC rating system. NEDC is notorious for giving up to 30% overestimates of EV range. For more detail: see here.
- Not yet rated on WLTP test cycle
- To Be Confirmed
- Renault does not sell cars in the US market: being unable to source a WLTP range, or the even more reliable US EPA test value, I have given the manufacturer estimate for ‘Real World’ range.
Is WLTP the perfect range estimate?
For many reasons, even the new WLTP range testing cycles may not always give an achievable ‘real-world’ number. Driving style, weather conditions, terrain and towing all affect the distance you can achieve on a charge.
Variations also show up between manufacturers on how well their EVs will reach their quoted WLTP range, even when driven in carefully controlled comparison tests.
A recent test by ChasingCars (as written up by The Driven here) showed that some EVs achieve closer to their stated WLTP range than others. In their test of five of the BEVs sold here, the Hyundai Kona came out best at exactly the WLTP range … and the MG ZS EV the worst at 73% of its quoted WLTP range.
Why buy an EV?
From table 1, it is still obvious that BEVs are still more expensive up-front than their ICE brethren – so why consider a BEV over an equivalent petrol or diesel car?
EVs (in particular BEVs) are better to drive with their instantaneous take-off, smooth and silent travel, ease of ‘refuelling’ by simply plugging in at night and unplugging in the morning, plus BEVs offer better peace-of-mind as they generally offer higher levels of safety with their low centre-of-balance and absence of volatile fuel tanks.
- Total Cost of Ownership. (TCO)
Up-front price does not reflect the full costs of vehicle ownership. When comparing ICE versus BEV, it is worth considering your personal ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO). Fleet purchasers are very aware of TCO in their calculations – and even with the current higher initial cost of an EV, TCO calculations for higher mileage vehicles are now tilting in favour of buying EVs.
This is because EVs have much lower running and maintenance costs, as well as reduced down-time for maintenance. BEVs also generally have higher safety ratings than ICE equivalents, as mentioned above in point 1.
Safety is an important consideration for fleet owners as both business and government are stipulating ever higher safety star ratings in order for a vehicle to be placed on their ‘approved model’ lists.
- Environmental benefits.
EVs are cleaner both locally (no tailpipe emissions) and globally (overall EV CO2-e emissions are almost always lower than their ICE brethren even if run exclusively on grid power – see Graph 1).
Graph 1 uses the Carbon Accounting methodology and data published by the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy. (Note that Graph 1 is taken from my 2018 article, using the July 2017 Australian figures. I am currently in the process of revising the article to reflect the department’s most recent figures).
Furthermore, with a BEV you are no longer tied to burning fossil fuel, plus your vehicle pollutes ever less as electricity grids continue their inexorable move to renewable sources.
You are also contributing less to the general waste stream by reducing or eliminating waste such as coolants, oils, brake pads, spark plugs, air filters and the like.
Graph 1: Full CO2-e equivalent calculations for new ICE vs BEV. Image: B. Gaton
So when should you consider changing to a BEV?
Below are my updated tables showing a selection of buying criteria versus the currently available new BEVs (table 3), some confirmed as soon to come (table 4) and second-hand BEV options (table 5).
Between them, they should assist in deciding if it is worth your making the change to a BEV now based on a selection of distance, route, price and cargo/towing options.
By the way, if no BEV currently suits your needs or budget – you may not have too much longer to wait. Overseas the range of EVs is expanding at a rapid rate, along with announcements of the cessation of ICE development (or even manufacture) from the major makers.
On top of this expanded choice: a number of economic forecasters have been moving their predicted ‘price parity’ points for BEVs and their equivalent ICE vehicles ever closer. That threshold is now predicted to start in 2024, or possibly even earlier. (See table 2).
Table 2: predicted EV price parity points with ICE
Table 3: Selection criteria applied to a selection of new BEVs on Australian market (June 2021):
Notes to tables 3 and 4:
1: Can make these ranges if topping up during day or use DC fast-charge option (or 3 phase AC charge for Zoe)
2: Kangoo ZE has neither fast-charge DC nor 3 phase AC options
3: 50km is still above the daily commuting norm. As an example, the average daily Melbourne commute is only 30km.
Table 4: Selection criteria applied to new BEVs coming soon to the Australian market:
Table 5: Selection criteria applied to available second-hand BEVs likely to be under or near, $30k:
Notes to table 5:
- Can make these ranges if topping up during day or use DC fast-charge option.
- No DC fast-charge (or 3 phase AC charge) for pre-2018 BMW i3. Note: some may have a CCS1 DC port, but this needs to be changed to CCS2 in order to be used at most DC fast-charge sites. (This is straightforward, but costly).
- Second-hand, ‘Grey Import’ Japanese Mitsubishi MiEV vans, 30kWh, 40kWh and even 62kWh Nissan Leafs and Nissan E-NV200 vans now being imported by several vehicle businesses. These will have Type 1 AC inlets. An adaptor will be needed to charge them with most Australian AC EVSEs.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.