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Our complete guide to electric vehicles – Part 2

Charging an EV save money, batteries

There’s a big worldwide push today for motorists to switch to driving electric vehicles. In Australia, only 3.4% of new vehicle sales are pure electric and about 83,000 EVs are currently on our roads. It’s early days and there is still a lot to learn. This is Part 2 of our complete 2-Part guide to electric vehicles to help you make your decisions. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2

7. Batteries ›

8. What about hybrids? ›

9. Insurance ›

10. FAQs ›

7. Batteries

Batteries are the single most expensive part of an EV. Most EV batteries weigh about half a tonne. They include precious and finite metals, such as lithium and copper, plastic, aluminium, wires and casings. These heavy batteries must be manufactured, carried around in the vehicle, serviced regularly and – a challenge – disposed of safely.

  • The cost of replacing a battery for a Tesla Model 3 is currently around $70,000 including labour – like buying a car again.
  • Motor insurance may not cover the battery.
  • Batteries don’t last as long as the vehicle itself.

Carmakers say they should last more than 10 years but Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and BMW guarantee 8 years or 160,000 kilometres.

Storage capacity of the battery can reduce earlier with frequent charging, use of high-speed DC chargers and exposure to high temperatures when parked. Even so, proponents of EVs do encourage frequent and high-speed charging.

According to Reuters, batteries are more vulnerable than occupants in a road crash and nearly impossible to repair. For example, Tesla uses structural battery packs, which can’t be repaired at all and Stellantis doesn’t repair batteries after accidents where airbags were used. As most batteries can’t be assessed or repaired after an accident, insurers have to write off the whole car.

More work needs to be done on the manufacture and sustainability of batteries.

8. What about hybrids?

While this guide is not about hybrids, it is worth mentioning them briefly. They are more popular in Australia than EVs currently because they use a combination of petrol and electricity and are cheaper.

Toyota’s top scientist recently claimed reducing exhaust pipe emissions and improving fuel consumption of 80 cars is better use of limited minerals than one EV powered with coal-fired electricity.

  • Tesla Model 3 has a battery size of 78.1kWh – same as 80 Toyota Camry Hybrids.
  • MG 4 has a battery size of  51kWh – same as 40 similar Toyota Corolla Hybrid hatchbacks.

Toyota’s view is not popular with EV supporters who claim no other alternative to EVs will do. But for a country in transition to more renewables, there is an argument for a broader approach to low emissions vehicles.

9. Insurance

In the US, it costs about 27% more to insure an EV than a fuelled car. Currently in Australia, the difference is less marked.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) warns EV insurance could rise, for a number of reasons:

  • The supply chain in Australia is still not well established, there are few EV service centres, and few people trained to work in them.
  • Motor parts and batteries are expensive to produce and replace, parts must be imported and some vehicles must be transported long distances to be repaired.

Currently, comprehensive insurance premiums are based on higher purchase price rather than the fact it’s an EV.

We checked the greenslips.com.au Calculator to find green slip prices for fuelled or electric versions of the same make and model and found they were the same. This is good news for you if you want to buy an EV now.

The transition to EVs may not happen in a decade or as quickly as many EV advocates are suggesting. This is because the picture is more nuanced than it first appears. The pace of the EV transition eventually depends on what you as a vehicle owner decide to do.

Find out exactly what makes and models you can buy in Australia that qualify for the incentives.
Or do a vehicle search and select Pure electric as vehicle type.

10. FAQs

1. What are the pros and cons of buying an all electric car?

2. When will EVS cost the same as ICE to buy?

3. Will EVs ever be cheap?

4. When will my EV save me money on fuel?

5. How do I charge my EV?

6. Are EV charging stations free?

7. Do electric vehicles lose charge when parked?

8. Are electric vehicles safe?

9. Do electric cars hold their value?

10. Can I tow a caravan with an electric car?›

1. What are the pros and cons of buying an all electric car?

There are 12 pros and cons in the table below:

Pros of EVs Cons of EVs
1. Higher upfront cost is offset by lower running cost Upfront cost is much more than the same ICE model
2. No fuel cost or reduced cost Battery provides a limited distance
3. Lower maintenance costs Battery has a shorter lifespan than a car and is expensive to replace
4. No dependence on oil Dependence on finding charge points nearby
5. Can be charged with small top-ups Takes a long time to fully charge, unless supercharged
6. Can be charged mostly at home, or at work, while shopping or at service stations Options are reduced for people who can’t charge at home
7. No driving emissions if charged with renewables When charged with coal-fired electricity, there are emissions from the power station
8. No exhaust pipe emissions create cleaner air There are higher emissions from EV than ICE manufacture
9. Quiet Too quiet for some pedestrians, especially the more vulnerable
10. An improved driving experience May lack the throatiness of an ICE vehicle
11. Increasing range of vehicle models No utes – our most popular vehicle
12. Government incentives to buy* EVs are unaffordable for average buyers

* In NSW, there are $3,000 rebates on the first 25,000 EVs bought (for under $68,750) and stamp duty exemptions (on prices up to $78,000). Battery and fuel cell EVs can also drive in T2 and T3 transit lanes until 31 October 2023.

2. When will EVs cost the same as ICE to buy?

Nobody really knows when EVs will cost the same as ICE vehicles. The term, “price parity” refers to the time when EVs cost the same as regular vehicles. Some say it could happen in the next 2-3 years. Others say it will happen only at the top, luxury end of the market. Cheaper vehicles (around $25,000) may never reach price parity.

It is difficult to reach price parity without economies of scale. As long as relatively few Australians buy EVs, carmakers can’t reduce the price of them. While each state and territory has its own EV policies, carmakers don’t see Australia as an attractive, single market. Some carmakers are subsidising the cost of their EVs by charging more for their fuelled versions.

As ACAPMA says, most manufacturers are more focused on range parity than price parity. They want their cars to be able to travel the same distance per charge as regular vehicles get from a tank of fuel. This eliminates range anxiety too.

3. Will EVs ever be cheap?

The cheapest EV in Australia is currently $44,000, which is still too expensive for many people. They would be more affordable if Chinese companies BYD and Ora do sell them for $35,000 as claimed. The high cost of manufacturing batteries is prohibitive for selling a cheap and cheerful EV. Volkswagen’s head claimed an EV costing around $14,000 is unlikely.

It’s up to fleet owners, such as governments and companies, to buy EVs. When these EVs go on the secondhand market, they will be more affordable for everyone.

For some people, the purpose of buying an EV is not necessarily to save money. They may be more focused on zero emissions, using more renewables, or quieter streets.

If you want to buy an electric car, you may have to accept it’s more expensive and you’re unlikely to recoup the extra cost in 8 years. However, when you sell it, your EV could help make them more affordable for everyone.

4. When will my EV save me money on fuel?

When your EV saves you money on fuel depends on how far you drive in a year. The ABS says the average is 12,000 kms, but many other distances are quoted.

The average Australian passenger car uses 1,320 litres of fuel per year, based on using 11 litres per 100 km and a distance travelled of 12,000 kms each year. When petrol prices are high, $2 per litre, a vehicle owner spends about $2,640 a year on fuel plus electricity.

If you’ve paid $20,000 more for your EV, it would take more than 8 years to break even and start recouping the extra cost. However, the first owner of an EV may not recoup the cost of buying it. Whether you can save money on an EV also depends on:

The less you drive, the fewer the opportunities for any savings on EVs.

5. How do I charge my EV?

You charge an EV at home, work, retail centre or service station. It depends on whether you want a top-up or a full charge.

Level Power Location Range per hr Amount
Level 1 <3.5 kW Home 10-20 kms Top-up only
Level 2 22 kW Retail, work, hotels 40-100 kms Top-up in an hour or full charge overnight
Level 3 25-250* kW Service stations 150 kms at lower end *Tesla Superchargers add 275 kms in 15 mins

The default charge is always set at 80%. This is because it takes much longer to charge the final 20% than it does the first 80%. Once the battery is half full, or earlier, the rate of charge always drops to protect the battery. Since charging above 80% is rarely necessary, you can make shorter stops on your journey.

However, you can also make short top-ups, as you do with a mobile phone.

Learn more about plugs and cables.

6. Are EV charging stations free?

It depends. Some Councils or state government chargers, workplaces, hotels where you are staying may offer it for free. Private companies offering public charging are not free. Prices range from 40 cents per kWh for slow 50kW DC charging to 79 cents per kWh for 150/250 kW Tesla Supercharger for non-Tesla vehicle. On average, you pay 60 cents per KWh.

You can save money by shopping around, if there is a choice.

7. Do electric vehicles lose charge when parked?

Yes they lose charge, but not much. In favourable conditions lithium-ion battery packs lose around 2-3% of their charge per month. Two factors speed up the rate of self-discharge: high or low temperature and state of high charge. So if an EV will be unused for an extended period, it’s best to park it with the battery around 50-80% charged in a place where temperatures are moderate.

8. Are electric vehicles safe?

Yes they are safe. Electric vehicles are subject to the same safety rules as all vehicles. ANCAP also assesses the high-voltage battery. It reported no battery fires from checking over 40 EVs.

EVs are less likely to start a fire than combustion engines, but when they do, they are harder to extinguish. Batteries contain many flammable materials and can restart a fire many times over, even if it seems to be out. They work best between 15 and 45 degrees, a narrower range than the vehicle itself.

It is important to take care of the EV battery. Make sure you charge up to 80% only, don’t discharge too quickly, use mainly AC slow charging (not frequent DC fast charging) and service it regularly.

9. Do electric cars hold their value?

The answer is unclear. US research shows electric cars generally don’t hold their value well and depreciate more rapidly than ICE cars. Over 3 years, EVs usually depreciate to half their original value. Some claim this is simply because the technology is being improved rapidly. One Australian leasing company says it depends on the brand and after 4 years, some retain only one third of their original value.

10. Can I tow a caravan with an electric car?

In principle, you can tow a caravan. However, none of the models currently in Australia is engineered or permitted to tow. EVs quickly generate plenty of torque, where an ICE needs to build revs for the turbos to start spinning. The biggest problem when towing with an EV is distance. Towing only 1.3 tonnes reduces the range from 410 kms to around 230 kms. It’s probably too early to tow a caravan with an electric car but this will change with time.

Compare green slips for the EV you want to buy.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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