Australia’s imminent federal election has charged the debate around electric vehicles. Labor leader Bill Shorten was quick to declare a move towards ensuring that by 2030 half of all new cars bought into Australia would not house an internal combustion engine.

The LNP, looking to remain in government, pooh-poohed that pledge claiming Labor’s policy would kill that great symbol of Australiana – the ute. Not true, of course, but there is an election to be won.

Now, while you may not care for yet another round of political fisticuffs, the discussion it supported on electric vehicles in Australia was still an interesting one.

While the environment tops the concerns of most voters, yes even more than the economy, Australia still lags behind the developed world when it comes to the number of electric vehicles on its roads, around 6000 at last count. In Norway, some 24 times smaller than Australia, more than 62,000 electric vehicles were sold in 2017 alone.

Okay, 62,000 electric vehicles. Are you serious?

Seriously serious. Norway’s generous tax concessions for buyers of electric vehicles together with a policy decision that by 2025 only new cars with zero emissions will be sold in the country, has deepened that nation’s love affair with electrically powered vehicles.

But Norway is not alone.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts, there will be 125 million electrical vehicles on the world’s roads by 2030. China, France and the Netherlands lead the charge for the strongest orientation to pure battery electric vehicles, while Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom have the highest share of plug-in hybrid cars.

The Chinese Government has long encouraged the purchase of electric vehicles through subsidies and incentives so it’s hardly surprising that more than 1.3 million New Energy Vehicles (electric and hybrid) were sold in 2018.

 So why are Australians slow to surf the electric wave?

Well, a few reasons really, with price probably the most prohibitive factor. Until Hyundai introduced the long-awaited Ioniq Electric this year, it was nigh on impossible to get an electric vehicle for under $60,000.

Add on the luxury car tax, import duties, and stamp duty and suddenly the price of saving the planet seems an insurmountable one.

Then, there is range anxiety. Although research tells us that the average Australian daily commute is less than 20km each way, buyers remained reluctant to trust that they could do the school run, get to work, pick up the groceries and get back home again on a single charge.

Also, our poor, well almost non-existent, rapid electric car charging network failed to offer the same convenience or confidence enjoyed by drivers of petrol or diesel-powered vehicles.

Times, however, are ev-changing. While the federal and state governments dawdle over electric vehicle-enabling policy and wring their hands over a further drop in revenue from the fuel excise, car manufacturers and industry are taking charge.

We now have a larger number of somewhat affordable and luxury electric vehicles available in Australia, or we will by the end of 2019. And not only are they more affordable but their driving range, too, is better than ever with the Kia e-Niro for example, claimed to be able to travel more than 600km on a single charge.

Industry has also taken steps to try and combat range anxiety by investing in a high-speed charging highway powered by renewable energy across the country.

The Australian Government recently boosted that initiative with a $6 million injection of funds to help ensure a charging station at least every 200km. High-speed charging stations can now also be found in some shopping centres, hotels, airports, tourist attractions and places of business.

How do I choose an electric vehicle?

It probably goes without saying but its best to opt for a vehicle that best suits your needs. Consider things like the distance you travel each day, whether your route is flat or hilly, city or suburbs, how many people you will be carrying and where you intend recharging your electric SUV or sedan.

As mentioned previously, the average Australian commuter puts around 40km on the clock each day, mostly around city streets. Driving through city traffic is actually an advantage in an electric vehicle with the energy harvested from hard braking used to regenerate the battery.

The electric cars available in Australia, generally have a real-world range in excess of 200km (not all BMW i3’s though) so in theory you should manage most of the working week without a recharge.

It pays to note that actual range depends on a number of factors including how aggressively you drive, how flat your route is, how much energy can be regenerated through braking and coasting, your temperature settings on the climate control and if you are using the radio and satellite navigation.

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Where, and how often, you need to recharge your vehicle is also something to consider. Charging at home or work is usually through a normal 240-volt/15 amp electricity supply. The rate of charge depends on the vehicle’s onboard charger, so usually 2.5kW – 7.0kW, and can take between four to 10 hours.

You can also have a dedicated EV charging unit installed at your home which will cut down on the charging time. Publicly accessible super chargers provide power to the battery at a faster rate (25kW-135kW) which means that some batteries can be charged in 30 minutes.

How much will it cost to charge my vehicle?

The recharging cost at home, if you are not using solar, depends on the electricity cost in your area, the tariff you are on and whether you recharge at peak times. 

The average cost of electricity in Australia is $0.30 per kilowatt, and it takes around 18kW to travel 100km, so it will cost you an average $5.40 to travel 100km, less if you are on a lower tariff.

In comparison, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it will cost an average $16.65 to travel 100km with petrol in your tank and $7.50 per 100km with diesel.

EVs are also cheaper to own as service costs are reduced because you don’t have to have items like spark plugs, engine oil and filters changed.

Electric vehicles are also easier on the brakes as regenerative braking fuels the battery rather than wearing out the brake parts.

Okay, so talk me through my choices

Australia has a wide range of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles on offer, but until recently, if you were in the market for a pure Battery Electrical Vehicle (BEV), your choice was limited to the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3 or the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (until 2013).

But 2018 signalled the start of a processions of new arrivals from Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Tesla with the run expected to gather pace as car manufacturers the world over let us in to their electric delights.

 

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Price from $46,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 200km
Powertrain 88kW electric motor, front-wheel drive
Charge time 4.5 hours on 240V
Fast charger 33min at 50kW (80 per cent)
Battery 28kWh Lithium-ion pack, eight year/160,000km warranty
Seats Five

Hyundai has a stable of three Ioniqs with a hybrid and plug-in hybrid to complement the full electric. It is a sporty hatchback that turns heads and most importantly, is one of the more affordable of the electric vehicles available in Australia.

Hyundai has a stable of three Ioniqs with a hybrid and plug-in hybrid to complement the full electric. Hyundai has a stable of three Ioniqs with a hybrid and plug-in hybrid to complement the full electric.

Hyundai Kona Electric

Price from $59,990 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 480km
Powertrain 150kW, 395Nm, front-wheel drive
Charge time 9.5 hours on 240V for 64kW and six hours on 240V for 39.2kW
Fast charger 75min at 50kW (80 per cent), 54min at 100kW (80 per cent)
Battery 64kWh Lithium-ion Polymer, eight year/200,000km warranty
Seats Five

Based on the petrol SUV that shares its name, Hyundai offers the Kona with a 39.2kW battery that will get you a real-world 300km on one charge, and a larger 64kW unit that can stretch to almost 500km depending on how you drive.

The Kona has the versatility and comforts of a small SUV with a good safety package to complement practical design. It seats five if it must, four if you have comfort in mind.

Hyundai offers the Kona with a 39.2kW battery that will get you a real-world 300km on one charge. Hyundai offers the Kona with a 39.2kW battery that will get you a real-world 300km on one charge.

Renault Zoe

Price from $47,490 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 300km (64kW), up to 310km (39.2kW)
Powertrain 68kW, 225Nm, front-wheel drive
Charge time 7.5 hours on 240V
Fast charger 60min at 50kW (80 per cent)
Battery 41kWh Lithium-ion, eight year/200,000km warranty
Seats Five

Renault introduced the Zoe to fleet buyers in Australia in 2017 but made it available to private buyers in 2018. It is a small but willing runabout and is a great entry-point for EV buyers or those looking for a second family car.

The Zoe is available in two trim levels with the entry-level Life featuring manual wind-up windows and the Intens adding $2000 to the bottom line. The Zoe is great around the city, a little less confident over bumps but the cabin is pretty basic for a car at this price point.

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The Renault Zoe is a great entry-point for EV buyers. The Renault Zoe is a great entry-point for EV buyers.

Nissan Leaf

Price from $49,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 270km
Powertrain 110kW, front-wheel drive
Charge time 8.0 hours on 240V
Fast charger 40min at 50kW (80 per cent)
Battery 60kWh Lithium-ion pack
Seats Five

Nissan is an old hand at electric vehicles and this second-generation Leaf with a bigger battery pack and almost double the range shows that experience.

The Leaf uses Nissan’s e-pedal which boasts “one-pedal driving”. This is just a fancy way of saying it has a strong regeneration program with energy recouped when you ease off the accelerator. It is activated by a switch on the dash but of course you can choose to use your brake pedal as normal.

It is not a new system but is still an impressive use of technology. Oh, and as an aside, all the specialised parts are made at Nissan’s casting plant in Melbourne.

This second-generation Leaf is far better looking than its predecessor. (image credit: Tom White) This second-generation Leaf is far better looking than its predecessor. (image credit: Tom White)

Kia e-Niro

Price Price: from $55,000 (estimated) (before on-road costs)
Range up to 485km
Powertrain 64kW, front-wheel drive
Charge time 8.0 hours on 240V
Fast charger 45min at 100kW (80 per cent)
Battery 60kWh Lithium-ion Polymer
Seats Five

The Kia e-Niro, the Korean manufacturer’s second electric offering, after the Soul, is expected in Australia by year’s end. It shares a drivetrain with the Hyundai Kona electric but is likely to offer a tad more room.

Reports suggest it mirrors the performance of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions – not available here – in terms of comfort and steady reactions. It offers four different levels of regenerative braking and comes with Kia’s seven-year warranty.

The Kia e-Niro is expected in Australia by year's end. The Kia e-Niro is expected in Australia by year’s end.

BMW i3

Price from $75,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 190km
Powertrain1 25kW, rear-wheel drive
Charge time 8.0 hours on 240V
Fast charger 30min at 50kW (80 per cent)
Battery 60kWh Lithium-ion pack
Seats Four

With its unique looks, carbon-fibre body and fashionable blending of sustainable materials and technology, the i3’s arrival in Australia was not unnoticed.

It is a delightfully agile little number with great comforts and an excellent safety package. It is good fun to drive, quick to take a gap in traffic with a firmish but not uncomfortable ride.

The i3 is better for two than four but it will make do if it has to. Annoyingly, the front door has to open to allow the rear doors to open which hampers entry and exit. The BMW i3 is also offered with a range-extending 650cc petrol engine which does not power the car but produces electricity for the battery and/or electric motor.

The i3's arrival in Australia was not unnoticed. The i3’s arrival in Australia was not unnoticed.

Mercedes-Benz EQC

Price from $150,000 (estimated) (before on-road costs)
Range up to 400km
Powertrain 300kW, 765Nm
Charge time 8.0 hours on three-phase wall box
Fast charger 40min at 50kW (80 per cent)
Battery 80kWh Lithium-ion
Seats Five

The Mercedes-Benz EQC is expected in the third quarter of this year, one of seven electric vehicles planned for release by 2022. Similar in size to the GLC, the EQC rides on a brand-new platform with a sporty design.

It also debuts the company’s new-generation battery and electric motor assembly. The front motor is optimised for efficiency while the rear motor adds a sportier note. Mercedes claims the EQC is the quietest EV around thanks to use of additional rubber mounts between the motors, sub-frame and body.

It also boasts pre-entry climate control which can be set via your smartphone and an ‘MBUX’ multimedia system that has been revised to include specific EV functions.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC is expected in the third quarter of this year. The Mercedes-Benz EQC is expected in the third quarter of this year.

Audi e-Tron

Price from $140,000 (estimated) (before on-road costs)
Range up to 485km
Powertrain 265kW, 561Nm, all-wheel drive
Charge time 8.5 hours on three-phase 11kW wall box
Fast charger 30min at 150kW (80 per cent)
Battery 95kWh Lithium-ion
Seats Five

Audi’s e-Tron electric SUV is expected here by the end of 2019 but is already creating a buzz amongst followers of the luxury brand. It has some cool gadgets like the optional cameras for door mirrors but sports the same virtual cockpit and advanced multimedia systems that you will find in the Q5 and Q7.

The e-Tron SUV is all things performance, style and technology we expect from the German brand with a highly-pleasing electric heart. Like the Jaguar I-Pace is powered by two electric motors, front and rear, but it comes at a cost. Audi suggests its electric models will make up at least a third of its production by 2025.

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Audi's e-Tron electric SUV is expected here by the end of 2019. Audi’s e-Tron electric SUV is expected here by the end of 2019.

Jaguar I-Pace

Price from $120,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 469km
Powertrain 294kW, 696Nm, all-wheel drive
Charge time 10 hours on 240V
Fast charger 40min at 150kW (80 per cent)
Battery 90kWh Lithium-ion, warranty six years/160,000km
Seats Five

Jaguar’s fully electric offering is an eye-catching beauty, it’s a pity just a select few will get to experience it. Like Tesla, the I-Pace will accept over-the-air updates and has AI technology that will learn individual driving patterns and habits to tailor an individual’s preferences.

With its punchy performance, extensive safety package and gorgeous styling, Jaguar has caught its European rivals on the hop. Jaguar has also pledged to invest millions in Australia’s charging infrastructure which is great news for buyers.

Jaguar boasts that the I-Pace has the brand’s most torsionally rigid structure. Jaguar boasts that the I-Pace has the brand’s most torsionally rigid structure.

Tesla Model S

Price from $117,900 (75D) to $192,200 (P100D) (before on-road costs)
Range up to 466km (75D), 574km (P100D)
Powertrain 451kW and 931Nm (75D) 568kW and 1000Nm (P100D)
Charge time 6.0–9.0 hours on wall connector
Fast charger 40min at 120kW (80 per cent)
Battery  100kW or 75kW Lithium-ion
Seats Five

The Tesla Model S remains the poster child for electric vehicles. The Tesla Model S remains the poster child for electric vehicles.

Tesla Model X

Price from $125,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 415km (75D), 542km (P100D)
Powertrain 568kW and 931Nm (P100D)
Charge time 6.0–9.0 hours on wall connector
Fast charger 40min at 120kW (80 per cent)
Battery 100kW and 75kW Lithium-ion
Seats Five-seven

Model X is the more family friendly SUV option. Model X is the more family friendly SUV option.

Tesla Model 3

Price from $60,000 (before on-road costs)
Range up to 480km
Powertrain 192kW, 696Nm
Charge time 5.0 hours on wall connector
Fast charger 30min at 120kW (80 per cent)
Battery 75kWh Lithium-ion
Seats Five

For the Model 3, like the Teslas that came before, it's a case of hurry up and wait. For the Model 3, like the Teslas that came before, it’s a case of hurry up and wait.

The Tesla Model S remains the poster child for electric vehicles. Its definitive looks, the hype created by Elon Musk and the company’s constant push for technological advancement, has kept the car on wish lists and waiting lists around the country.

The sedan is available here in both long and short range and although it is now seven years old, Tesla’s over the air updates have allowed for power increases and new features. The single speed gearbox delivers 100 per cent torque at your fingertips making sports car-like performance and acceleration possible.

AutoPilot, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving function still needs driver attention but is superb in its attention to detail and gives a clear indication of the future autonomous vehicles.

The Tesla Model X SUV with its distinguishing gull wing opening doors. Like the sedan you can choose from three driving modes, chill, sport and ludicrous with increasing levels of excitement. There is a third row too for practicality but that is best reserved for the kiddies.

For the Model 3, like the Teslas that came before, it’s a case of hurry up and wait. This is the model that brings the Tesla within grasp but while it shares glasshouses and interior layout with its bigger brothers, it is considerably less plush. The long-range performance models will be good for up to 500km while the short range will give you just over 300km between charges.

The future is electric

Well, certainly a large percentage of it is. As car manufacturers and countries around the world climb aboard the electric revolution, it is inevitable that Australia, too, will get swept along.

Economy of scale and the choice being offered in electric cars and hybrids means that prices will become more affordable. We are already seeing that with the Ioniq, Leaf and Model 3.

There are, however, a number of factors for Australians to consider if we are not to fall further behind, such as prioritising electric vehicle infrastructure, rethinking our electricity grid and positioning Australia as a supplier of the components needed for electric vehicles.

Is your motoring future electric? Tell us what you think in the comments below.



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