Australia’s cheapest electric cars for 2020, revealed

Red EV driving along the road.

Tim Nicholson

Posted November 02, 2020

Driving Your Dollars survey reveals what it costs to own and run an electric car in 2020.

The idea of owning a battery-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is growing on Australians. Charging times, charging infrastructure and driving range remain concerns for motorists, but sales data shows more Aussies are making the switch from a petrol or diesel car to an electrified offering.

The ongoing running costs of a battery electric vehicle (EV) are generally lower than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle as they have fewer moving parts and require less servicing, but the purchase price of EVs remains significantly higher than a petrol or diesel equivalent.  A new state government charge of 2.5 cents per kilometre driven for electric and other zero-emission vehicles and 2 cents per kilometre for plug-in hybrids, to come into effect in 2021, will lift running costs for EVs.

RACV’s Driving Your Dollars survey, which analysed 79 of Australia's top-selling vehicles, taking into account purchase price, loan repayments, fuel, servicing, tyres and on-road costs such as insurance, registration and auto-club membership, averaged over five-years, found that the average monthly cost of owning and running an EV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is $1383.89, or slightly more than the monthly cost of a people-mover at $1364.58. 

Australia’s most affordable EVs

Breaking down the results, the most affordable EV in this year's survey is a plug-in hybrid. Hyundai’s Ioniq Elite PHEV, which has the lowest purchase price and second lowest servicing costs in this category, will cost $1232.79 per month to own and run. 

The fully electric version of the Hyundai Ioniq Elite comes in a close second, with a monthly outlay of $1325.41. The Ioniq Electric’s higher price is the key reason its overall cost is slightly higher than the plug-in’s. It was until recently Australia’s cheapest fully electric EV but it has been undercut by the MG ZS EV, which is priced from $40,990 before on-road costs. The MG was not included in this year’s survey as it launched in November.

Nissan’s fully electric Leaf hatchback is the third most affordable EV surveyed, with a monthly spend of $1389.08. Now in its second generation, the Leaf is one of the top-selling EVs in Australia and until recently was the top-seller globally. That title is now held by the Tesla Model 3. 

The only other plug-in hybrid surveyed, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES, is the fourth-most-economical vehicle in this year’s electric category, costing $1416.65 a month to own and run. The Mitsubishi has the highest fuel, tyre and servicing costs in this category. 

Australia’s most expensive EVs

The most expensive EV or PHEV in the survey is the Hyundai Kona Elite Electric. The Kona’s monthly cost of $1555.53 is about the same as a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger large SUV.

While the Kona Electric boasts the lowest servicing costs and the lowest registration, insurance and club membership costs of all models in its category, its relatively high purchase price means it comes out as the most expensive of pure EVs surveyed. 

However, it's worth noting this year’s survey includes only models from mainstream brands. If EVs from premium marques were included, the results would be quite different. At present most EVs available in Australia are sold by premium brands and carry price tags north of $100,000. But there's plenty more mainstream EVs on the horizon, including the MG ZS, Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan’s Ariya SUV.

Earlier this year, RACV’s fifth annual survey of consumer attitudes towards EVs revealed that three in five Victorians would consider buying an EV as their next vehicle


Get the full results from our 2020 Car Runnings Costs survey
See results now →