The Future of Electric Vehicles in Australia

the future of electric cars in Australia**This post is brought to you with the support of Origin Energy

Recently Maxwell and I were on our regular walk to school, when he asked me about the future of cars. Our conversation turned to wondering if human beings could ever go back to horse transport, and whether we would want to. On the one hand we both agreed that a slower pace of life where cars were not all over the place, would be attractive. But on the other hand, we marvelled at the fact we can take a holiday in our car and be anywhere we want to in Australia, in a relatively short space of time. Add to this the fact we adore road trips in our family, and we agreed that we probably don’t want to go back to times before the car. Australia has a long love affair with cars.

As a South Australian girl, car manufacturing has been a huge part of our history and economy. As this has been shut down there have been massive impacts on our community and the individuals who worked at these plants. On the other hand, it offers enormous opportunity for electric vehicle manufacturing to take its place. I have been driving a Prius for about a decade. When they became available in Australia I decided I must have one and scoured around until I found a couple second hand. I ended up buying one that was virtually new and have never looked back. On average I go to the petrol station about once every 8 weeks. In part this is due to the fact that I work from home and walk Maxwell to school most days. These actions are however also part of reducing our reliance on petrol – car sharing, walking and using public transport, as well as more flexible work from home arrangements, all help to reduce the amount of time we need to be on the road.

Overseas, countries like Britain and France are leading the way with their plans to stop the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. In Norway they are already ahead of the game with more than half of all new car sales are already electric or hybrid. Both Ford and Hyundai are increasing their production of hybrid and electric vehicles. While the world moves in this direction however, Australia is lagging behind. According an article in the Financial Review, it can be linked largely to a lack of government-funded incentives, the high cost of electric cars and as well as the lack of charging stations.

the future of electric cars in AustraliaGovernment support

The Electric Vehicle Council says that Australia’s car makers could be brought back to life if the government gets behind electric vehicles in 2018 and starts giving drivers incentives to buy them. Part of the issue is cost of course, and ensuring people are encouraged through incentives. The council is pushing for a co-ordinated national plan to encourage and support the purchase of electric vehicles. According to the Electric Vehicle Council, Australia already has the mineral resources we need to develop batteries and the componentry that are used in electric vehicles and that this gives us a perfect opportunity to stamp our place in the car manufacturing market. What we need to work out is the timing of our entry into this market and how we want to proceed.

Electric vehicle infrastructure

Cost is one component but infrastructure is vital. Australia is a massive country and driving across it requires somewhere to charge. Even heading to our beach shack just 2.5 hours away would not be possible without a charge in many electric vehicles. This is where hybrids are fantastic, but what we want, is to move to fully electric vehicles.  Some states are starting to develop infrastructure such as the RAC electric highway. RAC has built the very first Electric Highway® in Australia, so you can charge up your car while driving from Perth to Augusta – and back. The RAC Electric Highway® features 11 locations in Perth and the South West with publicly accessible electric vehicle fast-charging DC stations. See more here. Charging time depends on the size of the battery pack and method of charging, DC or AC. Most car batteries will charge from 0% to 100% in thirty minutes on a DC fast charge. AC charging times range from four to eight hours. A new report ‘Recharging the Economy’ was recently launched in Canberra by the Electric Vehicle Council. It suggests that 3 million Australians could be driving electric cars by 2030, however the industry is demanding funding for better infrastructure to support the goal. You can see the full report here. The Electric Vehicle Council also has a series of resources on their site here.

the future of electric cars in AustraliaWhat to  look for

According to an article by Origin, not all electric vehicles are created equal, and with so many variables into how well an electric vehicle performs, you need to understand what to look out for when considering an electric vehicle. These are the key things to consider.

  1. Battery health & warranty

Battery degradation is a ongoing concern for EV drivers and something that needs to be considered in the overall cost of your vehicle. Battery state-of-charge (SOC) includes the amount of usable energy currently stored in the battery (i.e. how full is the tank?), whereas battery state-of-health (SOH) is a measure of the battery’s performance relative to a brand new one of the same make, model, and model year.

Ask about the degradation of the battery over time, remembering to check in on the expected lifespan of your EV battery and that it’s covered by a warranty. Ask your dealer, how long will this battery last and what will it cost to replace it? Typically, manufacturer warranties for EV batteries last around 8 years so use this as your baseline. Be sure to include those costs in your end calculations.

  1. Charging options

Most new range EV’s come with the option of a dedicated EV charger than you can mount to your garage wall. If you do need a quick recharge, it’s worthwhile investing in an onboard charger. Onboard chargers guarantee that you’ll get the most out of your charge in a short period of time. Be sure to get a qualified Electrician in to check on the installation of your wall charger and any connections between your vehicle and home. Keep in mind too that the costs of a wall charger can range from 0 to $2500 depending on what you choose.

The other thing to consider is the public charging network available in your area. Make sure the vehicle you are choosing is compatible with the network. Over time this will become less of an issue but due to the relatively new charging network in Australia, it’s something to be mindful of.

For more information on what’s available in your area, check out the EV Council charge map.

  1. Range

One of the most critical factors to consider is just how far you want to travel in your new EV. While ranges can go up to 500 Km on a single charge for models like the Tesla Model S, daily stop-starting of the average commuter will have an impact on the battery life.

The team at Gumtree have done a great job of pulling together the top 10 best range cars currently on the EV Market:

  1. Tesla Model S 500 km
  2. Nissan Leaf 170 km
  3. BMW i3 160 km or 300 km with range extender option using petrol
  4. Kia Soul 148 km
  5. Honda Fit 132 km
  6. Chevrolet Spark 132 km
  7. Ford Focus Electric 122 km
  8. BEV Electron 120 km
  9. Mitsubishi i-MiEV 99 km
  10. Holden Volt 87 km without petrol / 600 km with full charge and petrol generator

the future of electric cars in Australia

It won’t happen overnight

At the end of the day the move to electric vehicles in Australia is happening, albeit slower than some countries. Tesla have just announced 18 new EV super charger stations for Australia in a global roll out. Australia is getting its own boosted network, with another 18 supercharger stations planned for the east coast in both metropolitan regions and along “popular holiday routes”, and one new charging station planned for Perth, Western Australia. The ACT government announced its own plans to install 50 dual EV chargers across government sites in Canberra, to support its planned shift to zero emissions government vehicles by 2022.

The move to electric vehicles requires a shift in thinking, the same way we are now starting to see so many of us changing from single use plastics. As you start to make these changes, you naturally become used to a different way of acting, and planning. Like taking your bags to the supermarket, using a compost bin, buying food in bulk or carrying your own keep cup, a driving holiday may need to include longer down time for example, to sit for half an hour while the car charges, rather than filling up with petrol and getting back on the road. In most cases I see this as a positive thing. Taking more time and rest stops can only be better for all of us. Changing how we look at car ownership and encouraging more car-sharing and leasing, is another important step in the transition to electric vehicles. If we can lower the outlay and ongoing costs for consumers, there will be more uptake. In addition, we need to develop stronger standards for fuel emissions and urban air quality for all vehicles. There are currently numerous electric vehicles available in the Australian market but they are pricey.

I for one am eyeing off a Tesla Roadster – they are pretty sexy. Perhaps we will win the lottery and drive off down the electric highway.

Helen

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