Drivers switching on to electric vehicles, survey reveals

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 17 July 2020

RACV survey reveals surge in interest in electric vehicles but high price still a barrier.

Three in five Victorians would consider buying an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car, but high purchase price, range anxiety and limited choice of models remain key deterrents.  

The findings are from RACV’s fifth annual survey of consumer attitudes to EVs, conducted in partnership with the EV Council of Australia. More than 1000 people responded to this year’s survey, conducted in May.

Car plugged in to electric vehicle charging station

Three in five Victorians would consider buying an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car.


The latest survey reveals a surge of interest in EVs, with 60 per cent of respondents saying they would consider buying an EV, up from 47 per cent last year. An additional 11 per cent said they would consider an EV if they knew more about the technology (up from eight per cent in 2019). 

The results reflect the latest sales figures, which show a 19.2 per cent jump in registrations of EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) in the first six months of 2020, compared with the same period last year. The growth bucks the downward trend of the overall vehicle market which has slumped 20.2 per cent so far this year. 

[We remind Victorians that anyone living in stage-three lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must not leave home unless for necessary work or study, essential shopping, exercise or care or care giving.] 

The barriers


High prices

Despite the increased interest in EVs, the relative price of EVs compared with petrol and diesel cars remains a key concern for many motorists. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents said the purchase price would discourage them from buying an EV. (More: How much it really costs to own an electric vehicle.)

The most affordable EV in Australia right now is the Renault Zoe – a light hatchback that’s priced from $49,990 driveaway. For that price you could buy two similarly sized Mazda2s. And the prices only skyrocket from there for EVs built by premium brands.

Tesla’s Model X Performance, for example, costs from $179,511 before on-road costs, while the Porsche Taycan Turbo S is priced from $339,100 before on-road costs.

Thirty-one per cent of survey respondents said they would be willing to buy an EV if it was the same price as an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle, while 19 per cent said they had no interest in buying an EV, regardless of price. A further 37 per cent said they would be comfortable paying more than a petrol/diesel car, providing there was more support, incentives and charging infrastructure in place. 

Lack of incentives 

When asked what government policies or incentives would encourage the take-up of EVs, 75 per cent cited improved public charging infrastructure, 74 per cent called for incentives to reduce the purchase price, and 70 per cent wanted incentives to reduce the cost of installing home charging infrastructure.

Many governments across Europe, the UK, Asia including China, and a handful of states in the US provide financial incentives and support infrastructure projects to encourage wider EV adoption. Australia still offers few meaningful incentives beyond a higher threshold for luxury car tax and reduced registration fees in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

Limited options

The limited number of EV models available in Australia was also noted by 55 per cent of respondents as a reason not to buy an EV. Just 14 EV models are on sale in Australia as of July 2020, although there are more on the horizon.

Range anxiety

Range anxiety remains a major barrier for many people choosing an EV, with 74 per cent of respondents saying concerns about the distance that can be travelled between charging would discourage them from buying an EV. On average, respondents said 461 kilometres was the minimum driving range they would find acceptable on a full charge.

Of the mainstream EV models currently available in Australia, the Hyundai Kona Electric comes the closest to this with a real-world driving range of 449 kilometres according to WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Procedure) standards. Some premium models such as Tesla and Porsche offer greater range, but this comes at a hefty price. 

Electric vehicle charger
Close up of EV plugged in to charger

Charging infrastructure and driving range were still cited as key concerns.


What people want


Fast charging

When it comes to recharging, respondents suggested 30 minutes would be an acceptable time for a charging stop. While charging times vary depending on the capacity of the charger and the size of the vehicle’s battery, charging an EV with a regular household plug can take anywhere from seven to 11 hours, and a fast charger at a public station such as Chargefox will take about 15 minutes to add up to 60 kilometres of range. An ultra-rapid charger can add 400 kilometres of range in just 15 minutes, but that is only possible with a handful of models that can handle the charge, such as Porsche’s Taycan. 

Low charging costs

In terms of cost of charging, on average the respondents said $24.50 was an acceptable price to pay for a full charge. Much like petrol, prices vary by provider and by station, but for EVs, the price of charging also varies by model. The cost of charging using the Chargefox network ranges from free to $0.40 per kWh depending on the type of charger and location. The most you’re likely to pay at the moment is around $40.

Economy and performance

On the plus side, 68 per cent of respondents said the low ongoing cost of EV ownership compared to regular petrol or diesel-powered cars would encourage them to buy an electric car. Fewer people (59 per cent) saw the environmental benefits as a persuasive reason to buy an EV, but 85 per cent believed that EV performance was better than, or at least equal to, conventionally powered vehicles.

Sustainable power

Responses were mixed when asked how they would source their energy to charge their EV. Just over 30 per cent said they were keen to use solar and battery, just under 30 per cent didn’t care where the energy came from, 25 per cent were happy buying it from the grid and 16 per cent preferred from the grid via a green-power contract.

More information

More than half of those who answered the survey (54 per cent) rated their understanding of EVs as being as good as petrol/diesel cars. This suggests that awareness of EVs and EV technology is growing as they slowly gain mainstream acceptance.


 
We remind Victorians that anyone living in stage-three lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must not leave home unless for necessary work or study, essential shopping, exercise or care or care giving.