Electric vehicles: Are they worth it?

*By Luke Vanderzeil*

Have you ever experienced Ludicrous mode? After my first ride in a Tesla, and changing my top from the sweat-inducing speed, I started to squirrel away cash for the day that electric vehicles (EVs) hit a ‘reasonable’ price. Is that time now?

With the recent NSW electric vehicle incentive announcement, perhaps like me, you are wondering if Australia is finally catching up with the times, and purchasing an EV is actually becoming a viable option. There are of course hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids and several other options. I will be focusing on EVs in this post, but for a rundown of the others, click here.


Keep in mind I am no expert when it comes to cars, far from it (I have never even changed the oil on my own car, hence why an EV would be good for me). I am simply very passionate about potentially purchasing an EV in the near future.

Australian and International Incentives

Australia wide, our EV incentives are pretty minimal. Federal incentives; zero (heavy sigh). On a state by state basis, ACT waives stamp duty and rego, Victoria recently introduced rebates earlier this year and the current NSW incentives plan came as a surprise to many in June of 2021, but not without a catch (for a complete state overview click here). 

The plan will see a $171 million dollar charging infrastructure through NSW with chargers every 100km on highways and every 5km within the Sydney area. This is great news for those without off-street parking (that’s me!). For a fantastic breakdown of the NSW policy, check out Tesla Toms video here.

The first 25,000 sales after Sep1, 2021 will receive a $3,000 government rebate AND will not have to pay for stamp duty. This means, for many electric cars in NSW, you can easily see a $5,000 reduction in the driveaway price.

HOWEVER! The plan also includes a tax. Yes, a tax on EVs! By 2027 or when EVs make up 30% of NSW cars (whichever comes first), a tax of 2.5c per km will be introduced to all EVs. EVs purchased prior to September 1st, 2021 in NSW will not be subject to the tax. 

When Victoria first announced their tax it was set to be the first in the world, and not for good reasons. So if you drive 8,000km in a year, that’s an extra $200 for you. Taxes aside, the incentives, for now, are a welcome change.

The Price

Now, this is all well and good, but what about the price. Well, it’s not great. Currently, the ‘cheapest’ EV you can buy in Australia is the MG EV at the very oh so low price of…$41k driveaway. Not exactly accessible for the average Aussie. Fortunately, there is a growing market of second hand EVs. The various models of the Nissan Leaf or the Hyundai INOIQ are very popular on Carsales and come in at a much lower price.

Until the Tesla Model 2 begins its global release (set to be roughly $35k driveway), which should also encourage competition and even cheaper models in the market, EVs without government incentives are still very much in the luxury car model price bracket. 

Needless to say, Australia is very far behind the rest of the world when it comes to EV policy. To understand just how helpful policies and incentives can be to drive uptake, as of 2020, thanks to the huge incentives and charging infrastructure, 54% of Norway’s cars are electric! Will Ferrell is not happy about it. 

The UK and many other countries also have substantial rebates. Our tortoise pace policy has denied Australia many of the world best cars, with companies like Volkswagon calling our position on EVs ‘embarrassing’.

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Range Anxiety 

If you do get your hands on an EV, should you be worried about range? Again this comes down to price and location. Many new EVs available in Australia have a solid real-world range of over 300km and, with the ability to charge at any 3 pin socket, petrol stations are a thing of the past. Keep in mind, some cars, such as the Tesla Model 3 will take a day and a half to charge on a wall socket so apps such as Plugshare will reveal your closest DC fast charger. 

NRMA and Chargefox are just two of many companies that have done an excellent job expanding the Australian network. Generally speaking, if you pay more, you will get a bigger battery, and if you can afford a Tesla, then you get access to the Supercharger and destination charger network.

With a bit of planning, range anxiety should not be an issue, and if you have off-street parking, charging overnight is a dream. The cable charging situation is a bit complicated, but I’ll let Tesla Tom explain that one.

Popular brands

Even a few years ago you would struggle to compile a top 10 list of EVs. Now there are over 70 available around the world with many more on the way. Again, we have limited options in Australia and it really depends on your personal preferences but from my research, I would list the following as a top 5:

  1. Tesla Model 3
  2. Kia e-Niro
  3. Hyundai INOIQ Electric
  4. Nissan Leaf
  5. MG ZS EV

All of these models have different pros and cons, so I suggest checking out some reviews yourself. Also important to note that many brands have partnerships with other companies so you can get additional perks such as free charging.

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Ownership

Speaking of charging, let’s talk costs. This is where things get really interesting. So I crunched the numbers on my Honda Jazz (amazing car, Honda, please make a bigger version of the Honda e!), the Kia e-Niro and the Tesla Model 3 and I have to say, I was absolutely shocked. For context, I only do about 5,000-10,000km a year in my car. Here are the results for annual running costs including fuel/charge, insurance, rego, and servicing:

  • Honda Jazz: $3,750
  • Kia e-Niro: $2,900
  • Tesla Model 3: $2,600

Pretty impressive from team EV. Keep in mind there is a whole host of variables here, including insurance providers and charging rates but because so much of the infrastructure to charge an EV is currently free, and charging at home for many cars is between $5-$20, (depending on your electricity rate) the ‘fuel cost’ is substantially lower than gas. 

Servicing is the other area where EVs take out the win. There is no engine, no oil, and a whole host of other parts that a numpty like me doesn’t know about, so servicing visits are fewer and cheaper. Tesla doesn’t even have regular servicing! You simply book in the Tesla service van when you need.

This doesn’t take away from the HUGE barrier to entry that is the upfront price, but, if you do have the cash to splash, it makes sense in the long term (If you are financing your vehicle, you will need to take those additional costs into consideration). 

Oh, and batteries like those in a Tesla, according to Mr Musk will last 1.6 million km...so there’s that.

What about the environment?

Should you go and buy an EV today? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Electric cars have their part to play in saving the world but ultimately we want fewer cars on our roads, and better, clean public transport and bike infrastructure. Until we have cars that suck in carbon and spit out clean air, it will always be better to live car-free. If you do need a car, an electric one is, of course, beats out petrol every time (or a poo powered car, yes it’s real). Click here for a full list of petrol alternatives.

I applaud companies like Tesla. They have really pushed the automotive industry in a new direction, but these cars are not without emissions. Precious metal extraction takes a big toll on the planet because of the need to create lithium mines, the main ingredient needed for EV batteries. There are also some appalling labour conditions and major social impacts that come with this extraction. In fact, EVs have an even BIGGER footprint during production than petrol-powered cars. Of course, this changes quickly once they are on the road. On average EVs will have offset these extra production emissions in around 18 months (varies depending on battery size). And, as mentioned, during the ‘use’ phase, to be completely emissions-free, you need to make sure your car is being charged up with renewable energy, which may not always be possible (The Chargefox network in Australia thankfully is).

Still can’t decide? Get behind the wheel of an EV today to see what you think. Both Car Next Door and Evee ride-sharing platforms have EVs available for rent. I recently took the Hyundai Kona Electric for a spin and I was very impressed.

Is the future electric? I really hope so. I also hope we can find a way to make production greener and without the negative social impacts. With technology advancing so quickly, I can’t wait to see what people will be driving, or perhaps what will be driving us, in the next few years.

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