Updated: Jun 10
It seems that every other week these days there is another news article about electric cars, which sparks up another wave of opinions and claims about why electric cars are good, bad, and ugly.... With all that noise it can be very difficult to know what is accurate vs. what is junk, but more importantly, whether the move to an electric vehicle is right for you! So, I thought that I would weigh in on the discussion and provide some of our opinions, expertise, and experience to help prospective purchases of electric vehicles gain a simple and honest view on what to consider and what not to worry about.
1. Because electricity is predominately (in NSW and QLD) sourced from coal and gas, buying an electric vehicle is still bad or pointless for helping the environment.
Whilst accurate that approximately 70 to 80% of electricity generated today in NSW and QLD is from fossil fuels, it will not always be the case, with the investment in sustainable energy generation increasing at a significant rate. So, over time your electricity will be sourced from increasingly renewable and sustainable sources... This position also discounts the use of residential Solar PV as a source of electricity, and does not consider the reduction in noise pollution, distribution of pollutants and increased waste from the maintenance of internal combustion engine vehicles (higher rate of brake pad consumption, cleaning oils and fumes from buildings, safe disposal of engine and gearbox oils and fluids etc). In a nutshell, the more renewable generation that enters the National Energy Market (NEM), the benefits to the environment from a higher number of electric vehicles is a multiplier.
2. The driving range of electric vehicle batteries is limited
This one makes me laugh every time. As an owner of an electric car who regularly drives long distance, for example, Sydney to Brisbane. I genuinely do not know what the proponents of electric vehicles are not suited to Australian distances are trying to say with this one. Sure, I need to stop between Sydney and Brisbane three times to charge for 20 minutes at each pit stop, which equates to stopping approximately every two hours, to stop, revive, survive which is a happy little coincidence. Plus, a trip to Brisbane and back costs approximately $95-110* in electricity 'fuel' which is a nice little benefit vs. the cost of petrol for the same distance.
The electric car I drive is a Model 3 Long Range which has the advantage of utilising the Tesla Supercharger network, which is quite excellent, and not all electric vehicles have access to that infrastructure at this time. However, in the same way that when considering the purchase of non-electric vehicles, there are a variety of options in cars to purchase based on your needs, I knew going in I needed a longer-range option, as such made the decision on the Tesla Model 3 Lomg Range. Had I been in the situation more like 50% of Australian's who drive less than 80 km per day, I would have purchased an alternative electric vehicle. In the same way that all Australian's do not need a tractor, this is true of all Australian's not needing a car that does 600km on a single trip. That is not a suitable reason as to why electric cars are 'not suited to Australian distances', this is a false premise that can be readily dismissed by a majority of customers. Not all Australian's have the same needs, hence why there are multiple options when it comes to mobile phones, clothes, computers, and oh I don't know... Electricity Retailers... Choice is good. Options are good. Different needs and use cases are good. If it turns out that as an owner of an electric car, if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to drive a great distance to go on a remote holiday or something, there may be other options to consider, such as, hiring a different vehicle, or flying, or taking a bit more of a relaxing path to reach the destination... Sometimes the journey is part of the adventure. Oh yes, the question that I most commonly get asked about the electric car is, but how much range do you actually get... Fair question, in real world driving on the Pacific Highway at 100 - 110 km/h the maximum range that I tend to get out of the Model 3 Long Range is between 420 to 480 km from a full charge. This is including overtaking, mixed weather conditions, all lifestyle aspects active i.e. Phone charging, air conditioning on, radio on, and occasionally the heated seats active (because who doesn't love a warm bum when in Orange at 3 degrees Celsius). However, when driving the longer distances, I normally have another passenger who I share driving with, and we generally stop for a coffee, snack, bio break and quick top up in charge every few hours. The only real difference to our driving behaviour has been where we stop, rather than how often i.e. the stops are around the charging network and destination chargers. Which is an interesting consideration for any businesses considering implementing a charging solution at their premise.
* Calculation is based on real world application of 420 to 480 km per full charge, where the charge rate of 42 cents per kWh at Superchargers, 21.5 cents per kWh on Aussie Flat Rate Plan (Ausgrid Region), and no cost at hotel destination charging is applied.
3. Electric car charging facilities are difficult or not readily available
There are certainly some areas where fast(er) charging is limited or not present. I do beg the question as to whether the first moment that petrol powered vehicles first entered the country, that there were petrol stations were not on every street corner either. So, while there are some areas where dedicated electric vehicle charging infrastructure is available, there are rapidly increasing numbers of charging networks and options available throughout NSW and QLD that electric car owners have access too. To help you to check on the availability and coverage, here is a link to a pretty handy website that has been of great use to myself and other electric car owners that I have spoken too: Electric Vehicle Council. Additionally, there are variety of apps for Android and iPhone that provide maps and trip planning for users, plus many electric cars include that trip planning directly in the in-car maps and navigation capability, so it is actually pretty easy. The main shift that I experienced was that instead of the practice of running the car to 'empty' and then 'filling up' the tank, with the electric car it is more like how I treat my mobile phone i.e. When I am not using it and I am near a charger, I plug it in. I'll give you an example. When I go to my local shopping village in Lane Cove NSW, I park the car at The Canopy - Lane Cove at the charging facilities which helps keep the car topped up. Very rarely does the car see a charge level below 40% capacity, unless on a distance drive. In a nutshell, there are a growing range of charging locations and options that will only increase over time. The difficulty in charging out and about has drastically reduced and is arguably no longer an issue for the majority of Australians.
4. Electric cars are too expensive.
It is true that the majority of electric cars that have entered the Australian market have been priced at the more expensive price brackets. This is not a surprise, as it is often the case for new technologies entering the market at expensive at first. For example, when 4k Televisions first came to market, they started at higher price points before trending down over time. This is true if we substitute the technology with computers, mobile phones, and cars... As such, this is not an issue or a reason for electric cars to not be introduced to the market. Certainly, the historical pricing has been expensive, with the prices originating in the high 100's of thousands, but since then they have progressively decreased, trending down to $100k, mid $60k's and now there is a $41k electric car available. Are they expensive compared to a $20k entry model hatch back? Yes. However, the prices will continue to decrease, and not every car on Australian roads is a $20k hatchback. Does this mean that they are not a viable option, not in the least. They are not yet at a price point that enables the majority of Australia's prospective vehicle owners to afford an electric car, no, but this is not a reason for them not to be available, or a reason that they are 'bad'. Something that does get forgotten or selectively ignored about the purchasing of an electric vehicle, is the indirect benefits associated with owning an electric vehicle that are present today, such as, factoring in the reduced fuel and maintenance costs, and reduced long term operating costs when compared to petrol and diesel cars, in the same or comparable price brackets. This would normally be where a Government would get engaged to look at purchasing incentives, or subsidies to increase the availability of the newer technologies to the mass market. Whether doing something simple like removing the luxury car tax for electric vehicles, to more complicated schemes, for example, the creation of an entirely new taxation model that establishes a mechanism, let's call them 'Small Scale Technology Certificates (STC's)' that Electricity Retailers are regulated to purchase each quarter at a volume directly linked to the amount of MWh their customer base used, so those STC's can then be provided as a credit to any individual that is installing residential Solar Panels. But alas, any form of leadership on this remains missing in action. One more comment on the pricing of electric vehicles in Australia, whilst I agree with vehicle manufacturers regarding the lack of action by the Australian Government to facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles through appropriate incentives, there is the inconvenient truth that those same manufacturers, in many cases, cannot maintain enough production capacity to fulfil the European market, let alone attempting to bring their lower priced vehicles to the Australian market. Now, of course if I was sitting in the board room trying to decide where to deploy our constrained stock, I would vote for the market that is more open and has the lowest barrier to entry, without question. That would not be the market whose Government has taken no effective action to facilitate the product, claims the energy recovery plan is via Gas, and remains ineffective in the addressing of any International Environmental program to reduce national impact to CO2 production. So, a little bit of leadership from the Australian Government certainly wouldn't hurt matters.
5. If you live in an apartment complex, you cannot charge an electric car
There are constraints with apartment buildings, depending on the age, accessibility, and metering configuration etc. Traditionally electric car charging has not been infrastructure that multi-dwelling apartment complexes needed to consider, and many newer complexes have not included electric car charging infrastructure because it would cost them more to support a future requirement. Certainly, this would be another opportunity for Government to step in with some leadership, by potentially regulating mandatory electric car charging infrastructure in new developments. But how to solve for this today, well there are options that exist by engaging your building owner or strata committee to understand where they are at regarding this capability. We have found that this is a challenge that, more commonly, they are considering and actively discussing. Enterprise, like Bright Spark Power, are also bringing to market solutions to solve for these scenarios, which you can read about here.
In summary, there is an annoying amount of logically flawed attitudes and claims floating around in the media and discussion boards. There are also some genuine constraints and elements when considering an electric vehicle. Whilst some constraints exist, there are an increasing number of solutions available, and with some minor shifts in your usage behaviours (e.g. top-up charging vs. Full to empty petrol tank refill), electric vehicles are easily integrated into your daily lifestyle and routine. If you are planning long trips there are options for you in electric vehicle, as well as options around hiring a vehicle for those once-a-year long road trips vs. relying on the single vehicle for all purposes. Over time the capability to support electric vehicles will continue to increase as the residential and commercial properties adapt to the changing environment and market. There was originally some concern about whether electric vehicles were going to be come mainstream, however that has been conclusively squashed with every single major manufacturer investing billions of dollars into retooling their existing manufacturing lines to new electric vehicles, and setting the end of life for legacy production of petrol and diesel development (e.g. Mercedes & Volkswagen), with others ending production of petrol and diesel vehicles altogether (e.g. Volvo, Jaguar, General Motors). And last but not least, you can rest assured that here at Bright Spark Power, we will continue to innovate our electric charging solutions and electricity plans, to ensure that we are removing boundaries for our customers to make move to an electric vehicle. This is a critical piece for us to achieve delivery on the targets set out in Our Ten-Year Plan, which will see the environmental benefits improve over the life of your vehicle with us.