So, what’s behind the EV surge?
According to Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari, the growing number of models available on the market, increasing general interest in EVs and a more sophisticated understanding, especially concerning some common EV myths, have all played a part.
EVs are becoming more accessible
“We’ve got more models available to customers that suit different needs,” says Behyad. “We see that right around the world; as you’ve got more variety to choose from, more people are able to purchase something that suits them.”
He cites recent research, conducted in partnership with RACV, which suggests that more than half of all car owners would consider buying an EV if they could find a model that suited their needs. “Then that number skyrockets when people spend time researching electric vehicles.”
People are becoming more informed
He says as people learn more about charging times and infrastructure, as well as performance capabilities of EVs, they start to see them as a viable alternative to a petrol or diesel car.
“So with that demystification, and the message getting out there about electric vehicles, more people want to buy them. We've seen this right around the world and we've been seeing it for a few years, that vehicle sales keep falling, but electric vehicle sales keep rising.”
Early adopters have embraced the new tech
Several manufacturers that sell EVs in Australia have reported an uptick in sales in the past year. Mercedes-Benz sold out its allocation of the EQC electric SUV when it launched late last year, but has managed to secure more stock for keen buyers. The company says there has also been a surge in interest in its plug-in hybrid C-Class and GLC this year.
Mini’s all-new Cooper SE electric hatch has already sold out for 2020. Potential buyers will have to wait until next year to get their hands on one. Meanwhile Hyundai reports that sales of its Ioniq and Kona electric models are up 22 per cent and 31 per cent respectively year-on-year.
EV pioneer Nissan says sales of its Leaf have soared 826 per cent so far this year, albeit off a low base and following last year’s introduction of the second-generation model. The Leaf is currently the only EV on the Australian market with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging technology, which allows people to draw electricity from the car’s battery to supply energy to the home.
People want to reduce their environmental footprint
Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester says changing economic conditions and an increasing desire among consumers to reduce their carbon footprint have helped spur Leaf sales. And, he says, once people drive an EV, they start to see the benefits.
“I think that, overwhelmingly, people do want to see change and once they get behind the wheel of the Leaf or an electric car in general, they realise how fun they are to drive,” says Stephen. “And when you combine that with technology like V2G, you can really start to see how your energy consumption can change for the better.”
They’re fun to drive
Stephen says many people’s perceptions of what an electric car is like to own and drive differ from the reality. “And when they get behind the wheel and step on the throttle, they go, ‘Whoa, it hasn't even made a noise yet and I'm already doing 60, 70 kilometres per hour’. And then you just start to drive it and live with it for a little while and you realise, ‘Hey, I'm not queuing up at the petrol station. I just simply plug it in and off I go. I never think twice about it.’ (More: What it's really like to drive a Tesla.)
He says running an EV is easier than many people think. “People still don't realise that you can just plug it into your regular outlet at home. You don't need any other infrastructure built into your house. If that’s how you use your vehicle 365 days a year, you’d never have to really think twice about it.”