Why these drivers went electric
We chatted with 4 Aussies who recently purchased an EV or hybrid to see what prompted them to make the change – and why they'd recommend others take the plunge as well.
Last year, more people bought plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) than they did the fourth best-selling ute. That's a significant milestone for EVs as it hints we're on the doorstep of their widespread adoption.
For those of you who are a little more hesitant to go electric, we spoke to 4 loans.com.au customers to see why they opted for an EV (or hybrid) over a conventional vehicle. We asked them to share the tips they've learned and the benefits they've seen as new electric car owners, and we've also compiled some suggestions that could help you save money if you make the jump.
For Tesla Model 3 owner, Eugene, 28, making the switch to an EV was a no-brainer as far as running costs were concerned. His first car was a total gas-guzzler, being powered by a petrol V6, and although he found switching to a diesel for his second car was more efficient for the long distances he travelled for work, "the savings on fuel every year was substantial enough for me to consider an EV," he tells us.
Opting for the Model 3 was an easy choice as well. Wanting a car that felt premium in base spec, the Standard Range Plus offered all the features, driving range and performance he could have wanted.
What surprised him most about driving an EV, as it does for many people, is the instantaneous torque that electric motors deliver. Being disappointed by the lagginess of his previous diesel car, he now says he's "just happy to be pushed backwards in my seat as soon as I hit the pedal."
Ailsa, 29, also recently opted for a Tesla Model 3, having had an interest in electric vehicles for some time. Similarly to Eugene, the standard inclusions and driving experience were big selling points, but the advanced technology Tesla offers along with its charging support network were also deciding factors.
The thing that surprised her most about EV ownership, however, was more to do with other peoples' interest than anything about the car itself. One particularly memorable interaction she recounted related to the Tesla's "frunk" (front trunk), saying, "I once had a lady in a car park stop me, thinking I was about to put a barbecue chicken on my engine."
For Alan, 66, the potential cost savings with an EV as he is preparing for retirement was one of the greatest motivating factors for making the switch – in addition to, of course, the environmental perspective.
Having already installed a home solar system and storage battery, which he'd found cut his electricity costs, he thought taking the next step – eliminating the high cost of running a petrol car – would be years away due to the steep purchase price. However, he was impressed by the MG ZS EV – the cheapest electric vehicle on sale in Australia. The MG ZS EV was priced cheaply enough for him to make the switch now.
Already running his home off no-cost green energy, he installed a home charging station that allows him to charge the MG for free during the day. This, combined with the reduced maintenance costs of an EV, has left him more than satisfied with the savings he hoped for.
Ailsa is hoping to utilize a similar home solar, battery and charger system when she owns her own home but is stuck relying on charging it from a regular wall socket in her current rental. Eugene, similarly, is relying on the same slow 3-pin plug, but both note Tesla's impressive Supercharger and destination charger network makes this less of an inconvenience.
With an increase in the sales of hybrid vehicles as well, we also spoke to Ajay, 42, who opted for a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid due to his concerns regarding EV range anxiety – something, admittedly, none of the EV owners we spoke to were worried about.
Regardless, the RAV4 Hybrid has been a great fit so far for his family and their lifestyle. Given their love of going on long drives to explore beaches on the weekend, his concerns regarding charging infrastructure were alleviated by still having a petrol engine as part of the equation, but the reduction in fuel use and costs was still there.
All 4 of these new green car owners did agree there could be more in the way of government-backed incentives to increase the adoption of these vehicles. For Alan, there were no subsidies offered in his state at all, which disappointed him, while Eugene lamented Victoria's controversial EV tax for offsetting the benefits of what subsidies are offered there.
Ajay noted that their first choice would have been a pure electric vehicle were it not for range concerns, but that better subsidies "would have surely affected [his] decision." However, Ailsa advocated for greater education regarding EVs in addition to other incentives, proclaiming, "Trust me, they don't end the Australian weekend."
There's one more positive note all 4 agreed on, though – that they'd recommend others make the switch and that they won't regret it.
Ways you can save money buying an electric car
Making your money work harder for you is more important than ever. Following these tips could help you save on a new or used electric car purchase.
Make the most of available electric vehicle incentives and subsidies
To help encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, some regional governments offer incentives or grants. These range from $3,000 subsidies in South Australia, NSW and Victoria to discounted rego rates. There are a few perks on offer at a federal level too. Do your research and make sure you know about every electric vehicle incentive. Some even apply to second-hand models. Sadly, if you live in Western Australia, there's currently nothing available at a state level.
Consider dropping down a trim level
It's tempting to go for the model with all the passenger comforts and conveniences you can imagine, but that comes at a cost. For example, the most popular EV, Tesla's Model 3, starts from $64,879 drive-away. The top-spec Model 3 Performance has a drive-away price of $93,323 – a difference of $28,444! You'll save heaps if you can go without some of the luxuries such as 2-inch larger alloy wheels or performance brakes. Plus, the less costly your EV is, the more likely you'll qualify for the "fuel-efficient vehicle" Luxury Car Tax (LCT) threshold of $79,659.
Work out how much range you actually need
For a while, make a note of how many kays you travel each day. Add together the daily distances, then divide them by the number of days you logged. This will give you the average distance you need to travel each day. The more days you log, the more accurate the result will be. It might surprise you how little you drive. Once you know how much range you need, you can pick the right electric car for you. It could save you thousands. With one model, we found you had to pay $6,300 more for an extra 179 kilometres of range. Some PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) may offer you enough electric range for your day-to-day trips. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can travel up to 54 kilometres using just battery power. MG reckons its HS PLUS PHEV can go 63km, going by NEDC standards.
Consider a solar set-up
Charging your electric vehicle from the sun's energy is not only more sustainable but could also save you hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars. One electric car driver with a solar panel set-up on their roof no longer has an energy or petrol bill to speak of. However, we spoke to Sam Hatch, a solar panel specialist from Sunny Days Solar, who offered the following insight.
Most EV batteries have a capacity between 60 and 100kW, and you could use up half of that per day if you're doing some decent driving. That's 30-50kW you've got to pay for to "fill up" every day. To put that into perspective, pool pumps only use about 7kW per day and are normally one of the biggest expenses of an Aussie household, so your sparkling new EV is going to be one of the thirstiest electrical appliances you own…and your power bill is going to feel it.
Hatch also shared some tips to help save on running costs, saying that solar was still "by far the best way to help offset" EV charging costs.
You can fit a battery so you can charge your car after the sun goes down. If you work from home, even better: you'll be able to charge your car during the day when your solar system is doing the heavy lifting.
Hatch added there were other benefits too, namely that the solar array will have an impact on all your household power costs.
Get a green car loan
As if all the above savings weren't enough, car loan providers are keen to offer electric vehicle buyers exclusive rates on finance. Loans.com.au told us that it's offering the lowest variable car loan rate on the market, just 2.89%. It also offers a 0.7% discount for those buying an eligible green car. Marie Mortimer, managing director of loans.com.au, told us that the goal was to encourage those who were making an "environmentally conscious choice."