Updated: Feb 3
The electric vehicle council of Australia reported in their August 2020 report that sales of electric vehicles in Australia tripled in 2019 – and although they still represent less than 1% of all car sales, their growth in comparison to traditional cars cannot be denied.
In Australia, so too has the infrastructure grown far beyond what the disbelievers may even realise. The same report details there are now 1,950 standard charging stations (less than 50kW) at over 1,200 locations, a 16% increase since July 2019; and 350 fast and ultra-fast charging stations (50kW and over) at over 150 locations across Australia, representing a 42% increase since July 2019. Given the interest, not to mention policy, globally, electric vehicles are sure to affect all our future – whether you're ready to jump on board and buy – or not.
The Tesla Model 3 owners we interviewed, did their first test drive of an electric car some three years before they purchased one. No doubt there's not just a lot to learn, but a mindset shift that’s required. So, what's it really like to be an EV owner in Australia in 2021?
What electric car models did you assess when you started looking at electric vehicles?
The first EV to get my attention was the Tesla Model S about 5 years ago. Way out of my price range, larger than the hatchback/coupe I’d usually consider in a new car, but the first EV I’d seen deliberately designed to be fully electric from the ground up with impressive performance and distance. Had taken the s for a test drive anyway which planted the seed for keeping an eye out for the future Model 3 to hit our shores. My other half did lots of desktop research across a number of EV options, including Hyundai Kona and BMW i3 but these seemed underdeveloped (e.g. less range) when compared to the Tesla.
What electric vehicle did you end up buying?
Cut to 2020 and we were ready to make the switch from European diesel coupe to a full-electric sedan, Tesla Model 3. Our mind was made up that our next car would be electric as it was the right thing to do environmentally and a direct choice, we could make to lessen our impact, so it was only a matter of timing. We went for the long-range option for convenience as we go for the occasional road trip a few times a year, everything else we kept standard as the quality (interior, paint, rims) are all great and performance wise, we get over the air software updates so the car is always improving. Another big benefit was that servicing is so much simpler and cheaper.
Did you test drive your electric car, first? How did that influence you?
Yes, we test drove as the purchasing/ordering process is all online, so this was the only “tangible” part of our buying process. Also helped to see the benefit of full electric design with respect to all the additional space (front trunk, under boot space and leg room for days in the back)
Did you customise the EV?
Not technically but we did select the long range option.
What are the main differences inside the electric car?
The digital dashboard in a central screen was a big mental leap for me but surprisingly was quick to get used to. But even before that the absence of any engine noise is so strange at first.
What are the main features of the Tesla you get a kick out of?
This will sound strange, but I love that when I am sitting in traffic or travelling to regional towns, that I'm not emitting anything into the environment, pollution, or noise - I feel like I'm having less of an impact on others (in a good way) while going about my business.
I also love that I can “fill up” at home. This is so convenient even though it requires a bit of a mind shift where your car is more like a mobile phone (top it up when I’m not using it) than a traditional car (run to empty then find somewhere to fill-up). Dedicated parking spaces are also a nice perk and the network is constantly expanding with EV friendly businesses/destinations, especially in regional areas.
How did you feel sitting in an EV that you owned, for the first time?
It definitely felt like the future.... cleaner, quieter, simpler/more minimal/less of an impact on my surroundings.
Tell us about the key differences of an EV that you notice compared to a petrol vehicle
Now the loudest sound in the car is my inner monologue when I forget to pop on the radio. While it takes a bit to get used to, it is refreshing to drive without the familiar chug of engine noise.
Very minimalist interior including the control and instrument “panel” which is replaced with a central screen showing indicators as you need. This takes a bit to get used to not having “everything” on display, but the controls are intuitive and voice control is very responsive and accurate, requiring little thinking, just practice.
What’s the longest trip you've taken and how many times did you charge it on a long trip?
So far from Sydney to the Tweed Coast and back, about 800kms one way/1600kms round trip. Left home on a full charge and stopped about 3 times for a total of about 1 ¼ hours each way, timed quite well with our coffee, meal, and loo breaks.
Did you visit an EV supercharger and what was it like? Did you have to wait? What did you do while charging? How long did it take?
A few times now and they’re super convenient, you can see how any available spots there are for charging and we’ve not been caught out or had to wait yet. On one stop in Coffs Harbour, we had a relaxing lunch with a friend while we left the car to charge to full for our next leg back to Sydney. We even got helpful charging progress notifications along the way.
Packing for a road trip? Where do you put your bags?
Owning an EV has totally transformed our road trip mind-set making it a much more relaxing and eye-opening experience. Instead of driving as far and fast as we can before either one of us or the car needs to stop, we now work charging in with our coffee, meal and tourist stops, with chargers conveniently placed at some very picturesque, tasty, and handy locations. The ability to easily navigate to chargers on-route using mobile phone apps, to see if there’s a free spot definitely helped tackle any initial range anxiety, which isn’t just an EV thing as I’ve also had plenty of range anxiety in my petrol driving days – same, same but different.
Packing for a road trip is cake, with so much usable space thanks to the clever design and you can’t tell the difference between driving fully loaded or not.
Do other people notice you?
We get a lot of waves from kids on bikes – they know the future when they see it!
Do you notice other EV and have any code eg nod or flash
There's a great little Tesla community on the road and they love to connect with vigorous waving and wide smiles.
Where do you mostly charge it
What is the process for charging the EV
Really simple – press a button on the charging connector, which opens the car's charging port and plug it in - no need to hunt for the petrol cap release!
When are you most likely to charge your electric vehicle?
I also love that I can “fill up” at home. This is so convenient even though it requires a bit of a mind shift where your car is more like a mobile phone (top it up when I’m not using it) than a traditional car (run to empty then find somewhere to fill-up)
What hassles have you had around electric vehicle charging?
None yet but planning definitely helps for smooth running on longer trips.
What was easier than expected around EV charging?
Finding a car park at popular destinations and when shopping is so much easier with EV only parking – I feel like I can get in and out much easier and top up my “tank” at the same time.
What is your hope for charging EVs in the future, in Australia?
That the infrastructure increases at the same rate as take up/ utilisation as these “small perks” such as dedicated parking, free and convenient charging are big “every-day” incentives/conveniences to drive the uptake of EVs in Australia and increase our potential to “greenify” private transport.
Now that you’ve owned it for a few months? What would you say to people considering an EV?
Just do it! Plan for an EV option when considering your next vehicle purchase, however far away it might be. Challenge your thinking on some of the myths or concerns that might be holding you back from considering an EV option and do some research. There are some great impartial, informative articles out there to help you understand if some of the differences with being an EV owner are real constraints for you or just require a new way of thinking. I can tell you now, we haven’t looked back.
Lindsey takes her 1yo godson through the Tesla interface - the verdict? Electric vehicles are child's play.. Thumbs up from us