Recent sales data shows that from the beginning of 2022 to 2023, the number of electric vehicles on Australian roads has almost doubled—growing from 44,000 to 83,000 and accounting for 3.8% of new vehicle sales.
As charging infrastructure improves, prices for the vehicles themselves come down, and supply ramps up to meet demand (there are currently waiting lists as new electric vehicles (EVs) sell out almost immediately), we should continue to see a steady growth in the number of electric cars being driven around the country.
Excitingly, as part of our company-wide push towards net-zero operations, COS has introduced its first electric delivery vehicles, starting in Canberra and soon expanding to other regions. This initiative not only makes us an industry leader, but sets us up for a future where petrol-powered vehicles are phased out and businesses begin to incorporate a wider range of eco-friendly practices into their operations.
How do electric vehicles work?
Electric vehicles don’t have a regular gas engine. Instead, they have an electric motor that’s powered by a large battery that you have to plug into an electrical outlet or charging station. As they run on electricity, they have gas tanks, fuel pumps or fuel lines, and don’t produce any exhaust fumes.
Advantages of electric cars
Electric car benefits are quite straightforward, with marketing campaigns geared towards letting people know they can help the planet without compromising aspects of their lifestyle. EVs promise:
- Reduced emissions and improved air quality. It is no secret that emissions need to be drastically cut if the world is to keep within any of the climate goals set at international summits.
- Lower operating costs. This comes from both the fact that electricity is currently cheaper than petrol, and that electric cars have fewer moving parts, requiring less maintenance.
A comparison by Budget Direct between two of Hyundai’s 2021 cars, the Kona Electric Elite and the Kona N-Line, showed that after initial costs ($62,000 for the EV and $36,000 for the petrol-powered vehicle), the electric vehicle would save an average Australian driver roughly $1,100 per year ($1560 for petrol versus $426 for electricity). Of course, in the last couple of years, petrol prices have dramatically increased, meaning the savings are likely to be bigger.
- Less noise pollution. Electric cars are significantly quieter than petrol-powered vehicles as there is no internal combustion engine. This is significant in urban areas, where noise pollution is a real problem. Electric cars can improve quality of life for residents living near busy roads and help reduce stress levels for both drivers and pedestrians.
Electric cars—key considerations
Of course, every new technological development brings with it some complexity. Some of the main considerations in relation to EVs include:
- Limited range. The term range anxiety has become part of modern speech, describing the worry over a vehicle not having enough power to reach its destination, leaving those in the car stuck. However, as charging stations become more widespread and the technology matures, range anxiety should be less of a concern.
- Inconsistent recharge times. To put it simply, charging an EV is more complicated and time-consuming than filling a car with petrol. While charging times are constantly being reduced, there are many variables influencing exactly how long it takes, including the model of car being driven, the charger (and how many people are using it at that time), how full the battery is, and more.
As a recent Bloomberg article points out, charging is quicker when the battery has less power, meaning topping up at each charging station is not necessarily the best strategy. Every car has a point where plugging in will result in the most efficient charge depending on the model. Luckily, developments mean that these charging strategies adopted by EV owners won’t be needed in the future. Bloomberg also reports that Mercedes-Benz is working on vehicles that can travel further and include a navigation system that calculates the optimal refuelling point in relation to the location of charging points.
- Limited charging infrastructure. In cities, more charging stations for electric vehicles are popping up all the time, yet in a country as vast as Australia, those travelling between states and driving in rural areas may not yet have the infrastructure available to them.
- Upfront costs. In the above section, we mentioned that running costs are considerably lower. Despite this, we can’t neglect the fact that a new EV generally costs significantly more than a petrol-powered car. Luckily, with more uptake, mass production, and a greater number of car companies entering the EV market, we will see a decrease in prices. This introduction of more affordable EVs from established manufacturers is well underway, contributing to the erosion of Tesla’s market share (from 78% in Q4 of 2021 to 58% in Q4 of 2022).
Australian Government support
Of course, in a country as big and spread out as Australia, owning a car is pretty much a non-negotiable requirement, which is why it makes sense to promote the purchase of EVs over petrol-powered vehicles or hybrids.
Up until recently, Australia hasn’t had any coherent take on electric vehicles; however, things are finally starting to change. The Albanese Government’s Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine king, opened up a consultation process in 2022, with submissions helping shape the National Electric Vehicle Strategy. As noted in the department’s media release, transport is Australia’s second largest source of emissions, meaning that the promotion of electric vehicles is critical as part of the country’s efforts to reach net zero by 2050.
A boost to local industry
Australia can seriously benefit from the production of electronic vehicles. According to The International Energy Agency, demand for EV batteries will increase more than tenfold over this decade, with Australia containing some of the world’s biggest reserves of critical minerals that are required for their production, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese ore.
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Tesla alone is on track to spend more than $1 billion a year on metals mined in Australia, with an expansion of the sector helping to create thousands of local manufacturing jobs.
COS’s Adoption of Electric Delivery Vehicles
COS is achieving net zero operations in 2023 thanks to a multi-pronged strategy that touches on our warehouses, offices, and supplier relations. As a company that delivers goods all around Australia, a key pillar of our strategy involves adopting vehicles that have a lighter carbon footprint.
With a successful trial in Canberra, we rolled out our first electronic delivery vehicles in the capital, with an eye to soon expand across the country. While not the cheapest option, we felt the need to act on this issue for a few reasons:
- COS is an Australian-owned and operated company with significant ties to local communities. Our business can only thrive when Australia as a country is healthy, safe, and prosperous.
- Government policy is likely to mandate certain eco-friendly standards—we are future-proofing our business.
- It’s the right thing to do by the planet.
EVs as Part of Australia’s Future
Electric car sales currently account for just 3.8% of all new cars sold in Australia. This figure is 19% in China, and 86% in Norway. It is clear through this comparison that we have a lot of catching up to do. With the Federal Government on board, electric car costs coming down, and the maturation of associated technology, we are likely to notice a lot more EVs on Australian roads.
If you can afford it, electric vehicles are definitely worth the money, making back the initial investment over time, especially as petrol prices rise. However, if you’re happy with your current vehicle, you may want to hold out a bit longer, safe in the knowledge that in a year or two you will be likely to pick up a cheaper and more advanced vehicle.