I’ve long been interested in getting an EV, but 2019 was the year that I
finally decided it was a good time to make the switch and in this
article I will explain why and how.
Why choose an electric car – a battery electric vehicle or BEV? There
are currently a few drawbacks such as the limited selection of models
available in Australia, a higher purchase price than a comparable petrol
or hybrid car, and the need to stop and recharge after 150-600Km
depending on the model. Those drawbacks are gradually being addressed
but there are also considerable advantages that I believe already
outweigh the disadvantages.
First and foremost, zero emissions: no air pollution and no greenhouse
gasses from the car itself, and if you generate or purchase renewable
energy (for example from home solar panels), none from the energy
generation either. Even if you do purchase electricity generated from a
coal plant, an EV usually doesn’t have a transmission or gearbox and the
motor is 85 to 90% efficient, compared to a petrol engine that is 17-21%
efficient with the rest being emitted as heat and sound. Including the
charging process and any AC-DC conversion, an EV converts about 60% of
the grid power to traction at the wheels which is about three times as
efficient as a petrol car.
This also means that fuel and maintenance costs are significantly lower.
I usually charge our car at home overnight at off-peak rates, as do most
EV owners, and if you are with Powershop they even offer a special
double-off-peak rate (¼ the normal price for four hours a night) for EV
owners. I get about 5Km per kWh and spend around $20 per week for 500Km
of driving compared to $50 per week on petrol for the same amount of
travel in our previous car. That’s about $1,500 per annum savings in fuel.
An EV normally only needs to be serviced once every six months or
10,000Km and that’s mostly just checking the tires and brakes. My
service fee is $95 unless the brakes or tires need replacing. There’s no
oil or transmission fluid to change. Furthermore the brakes in any EV
will last up to five times longer than a petrol car because regenerative
braking (using the motor in reverse as a generator to put power back in
the battery) is always used first before actually applying any friction
to the brake pads.
The performance is excellent – an EV will be smooth and quiet, which
makes listening to music in the car delightful, and it holds the road
firmly and corners well because the heavy battery provides a very low
centre of gravity. The electric motor will provide plenty of torque at
any speed, so you can always pull ahead of other cars to merge safely.
And most models have an excellent safety rating: Tesla in particular is
now rated as the safest car in the world.
The biggest obstacle for me was the purchase price. The cheapest new
electric cars currently available in Australia are the Hyundia IONIQ at
around $45K, Renault Zoe at around $50K, the Nissan Leaf at around $55K,
Hyundia Kona at $60K and the BMW i3 and Tesla 3 both at around $70K. If
you can afford a luxury car there are more expensive Tesla models and
the highly regarded Jaguar i-Pace at $100-$200K. Other manufacturers
such as Volkswagen and Audi also make EV models but they are not
currently on sale in Australia, so you would have to import them yourself.
What made the difference for me was the availability of second hand
cars. There is an importer called J-Spec Imports <http://j-spec.com.au/
that will import second-hand Nissan and Volkswagen EV cars but even
better there is a forward-thinking dealer called UniBee Australia
> who has already purchased a few second-hand
Nissan Leaf cars, converted the controls and navigation system to
English, roadworthied and registered them and has them on the lot in
Moorabbin priced around $20-22K drive away.
That’s still quite a lot of money and more than I’ve ever paid for a car
before, but luckily my employer at the time of purchase had an
arrangement with StreetFleet to provide novated leases to staff and they
can also be paid for via salary sacrifice via Community Business Bureau.
This meant I could lease a 2014 model Leaf from Unibee paying only $15K
over three years, and saving $7K on my taxes over that same period. So
I’m actually only paying $8,000 but saving $2,000 per year on the fuel
and servicing leaving me only $2,000 out of pocket – which is exactly
the amount of cash I was able to get when I sold our 2005 Toyota Camry.
And that’s how I was able to switch to an electric car nearly ten years
newer and with many more features (AC power adapter in the front
passenger seat, Bose sound system, 360 degree cameras, small solar panel
to charge the 12v accessory battery, 17 inch wheels, electric blue trim,
etc.) that is an absolute joy to drive without having to spend any more
money than I already was. Surveys of EV drivers show that 96% would not
drive another petrol car again, and that’s certainly how I feel.
I did choose to spend $1,700 (total for parts and labour) getting an
electrician to install a type 2 “J1772” 16/32A charging socket on the
wall of our house although the car also came with a standard 10A 240V
cable that I initially used in a regular house socket on our front
verandah. The new socket is more robust, charges faster (around 4 hours
a night instead of 6), and will be handy when our friends get electric
cars and come to visit us!
I hope this article will encourage you to consider making the switch,
both for environmental reasons and because after trying an EV you too
may decide it’s just plain better. Please feel free to contact me if
you’d like to hear more!
Share and enjoy,
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics