What, Why, When guide to buying an electric vehicle in Australia – updated!

Wow, it’s nearly a year and a half since I wrote the original ‘EV buyers guide’ article, and almost 12 months since its first update

But here we are in a markedly changed electric vehicle world, even over that short period. So it’s time, again, to review the options and possibilities for joining the rEVolution!

(Note: technically, the term EV – short for Electric Vehicle, covers four types of EV – Battery Electric Vehicles – BEV; Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – PHEV; Hybrid Electric Vehicles – HEV; as well as Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles – FCEV.

For further detail on each type – see the FAQ here. In this article I only discuss the BEV, as these are the one that most people ask about/think of as Electric Vehicles.)

Around the world, ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle sales have now consistently failed to exceed (or even return) to their 2017 peaks, while ever-growing queues of pre-orders and orders for full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) show the pent-up demand from the public for EVs.

And why not? EVs (in particular BEVs) are better to drive with their instantaneous take-off, smooth and silent travel, ease of ‘refuelling’ by plugging in at night and unplugging in the morning, plus BEVs generally offer higher levels of safety with their low centre-of-balance and absence of volatile fuel tanks.

On top of that, they 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).

Furthermore, with a BEV you are no longer tied to burning fossil fuel, plus your vehicle pollutes ever less as the world’s electricity grids continue their inexorable move to renewable sources.

Therefore the purpose of this article is to describe the abilities of current and (and soon to come) BEVs in Australia in order to:

a) help those who have the willingness (and the wherewithal) to make the transition now should something already meet their needs; and

b) for those whose transport needs aren’t yet met by a BEV, better define the likely time when they will be.

BEV update for mid-2019

Since my last BEV choice article, the following models have been added to the growing EV line-up in Australia:

  • Hyundai Ioniq (as well as its PHEV and HEV siblings)

  • Hyundai Kona electric

  • Tesla Model 3 (well, orders anyway: the first will arrive in August)

  • BMWi3 120Ah (with an increase from a 33kWh to 42kWh battery)

  • 2018 Nissan Leaf 2.0 (like the Model 3: only order for now – the first are expected in August).

  • Coming this year are also expected:

  • Mercedes EQC

  • Audi e-tron

  • ACE Cargo light commercial van (in limited numbers)

  • Plus (in early 2020) the Kia e-niro and maybe even their Soul EV too.

  • It was hoped that this year’s crop of BEVs would start breaking the $50,000 on-the-road price point, but only a light ‘shattering’ has occurred.

Most prices for the ‘budget’ end of EVs announced have hovered around that point … ‘before on-road costs’ (ORC). Sadly, the dreaded ORCs have tended to multiply, ensuring all but the Ioniq resolutely refuse to go under $50k on the road.

However, if $50k is your limit: you can now buy the lower spec Ioniq BEV for around $48k on the road, and some haggling should get you a Renault Zoe or Kangoo ZE van under there too.

So let’s see, updating the New BEV Choice table from late 2018 now gives us 13 available now, and probably 16 by the end of the year. (Up from 8 in late 2018):

Table 1: New BEV choices available here (or coming soon) to Australia:

Notes to table 1:

1. Battery electric vehicles only listed. Table does not any PHEVs, HEVs or FCEVs;
2. Quoted = new Euro WLTP test standard results, ‘Real World’ = US EPA test standard results. With this update, I have moved to ONLY using WLTP test cycle standard for the ‘quoted’ figures. This is because the world (other than the US) are moving to use this standard only. In Australia, manufacturers are still quoting a mix of either WLTP or the older (and wildly over-optimistic!) NEDC test standard;
3. NYR = Not Yet Rated on WLTP test cycle;
4. To Be Confirmed;
5. Renault does not sell cars in the US market: manufacturer estimates for ‘Real World’ range given.

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?

First up, it is worth considering your personal ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO). Fleet purchasers are very aware of TCO in their calculations – and I have been to several conferences recently where fleet managers are openly talking of soon switching to purchasing PHEVs and BEVs instead of ICE vehicles.

This is a direct result of EV purchase costs coming down, making their TCO calculations begin to tilt in favour of running EVs. This is because EVs have much lower running costs, and maintenance costs, as well as reduced down-time for maintenance.

BEVs also generally have higher safety ratings than ICE equivalents – in part due to their lower centre of gravity making roll-overs less likely.

This latter point is an important consideration for fleet owners as both business and government are stipulating ever higher safety star ratings for vehicles to even be placed on their ‘approved vehicle’ lists.

Secondly, you get the environmental benefits of BEVs over ICE vehicles (and especially diesel ICEs). These include:

– No air pollution from the tailpipe;

– Reduced overall CO2-e (Using the Carbon Accounting methodology and data as published by the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy. See graph 1 below.

Note: this data is based on the July 2017 Australian figures. Given the 2019 figures are due out soon – I will revise that article and graph when they are

– No longer being tied to using fossil fuels, so you can go further in replacing coal and gas-fired generation with your own solar or subscribing to the greener wind, solar and hydro offered by the utilities;

– Reduction in waste such as coolants, oils, brake pads, spark plugs, air filters and the like.

So when should you consider changing to a BEV?

We do now have a range of BEV choices in Australia, and that choice is still growing into other vehicle market segments, offering BEV choices where there used to be none (read about the Kona vs Tesla choice here).

In fact, I have had to split up the tables from the previous article into several parts to cover this expanded range. The tables also include a growing range of grey import BEVs that can be bought.

(I do add the caveat that you would need to be committed to EVs to do so – the grey imports are not supported by the manufacturers as maintenance and parts can differ from the Australian delivered versions. Consequently you would need to find an EV competent mechanic to maintain or repair them: which is difficult in such a small market as ours.)

Below are my updated tables showing the currently available new BEVs (table 1), confirmed as soon to come (table 2) and second-hand BEV options (table 3).

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 and cargo/towing options.

By the way, if no BEV yet suits your needs – you may not have long to wait. Overseas the range is expanding at a rapid rate as well as the announcements of new models to come, so expect even more BEV choice to come in 2020.

To name just a few likely to arrive here in the next year or so: VW is just about to hit the market overseas with the first of the much anticipated ID series, as well as Porche with the Taycan; Tesla in 2020 the Model Y and the new Roadster and Rivian the RT1.

On top of this expanded choice: a number of economic forecasters have been moving their predicted ‘price parity’ point for BEVs and their equivalent ICE vehicles ever closer. That predicted date is now somewhere around 2024, or possibly even earlier.

Table 2: Selection criteria applied to new BEVs on Australian market:

Notes to table 2

1: Can make these ranges if topping up during day or use DC fast-charge option (or 3 phase AC charge for Zoe)
2: No DC fast-charge (or 3 phase AC charge) for pre-2018 BMW i3. 2018 i3 has both.
3: Kangoo ZE has neither fast-charge DC nor 3 phase AC options
4: Base Tesla model 3 has less than 400km range, but Long Range does

Table 3: Selection criteria applied to new BEVs coming soon to the Australian market:

Notes to table 3:

1: Can make these ranges if topping up during day or use DC fast-charge option.

Table 4: Selection criteria applied to available second-hand BEVs likely to be under, or near, $30k:

Notes to table 4:

1. Can make these ranges if topping up during day or use DC fast-charge option.
2. No DC fast-charge (or 3 phase AC charge) for pre-2018 BMW i3. Note: some may have CCS1 DC port, but this needs to be changed to CCS2 to be useful (easy, but could be costly).
3. Second-hand, ‘Grey Import’ Japanese Mitsubishi MiEV vans, 30kWh Nissan Leafs and Nissan E-NV200 vans now being imported by several vehicle businesses.

Bryce Gaton

Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector for 10 years, and also is editor of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association newsletter.