Jude Burger has owned Tesla electric cars for the last three years. It’s fair to say she’s a convert.
“When people look at buying a new car I think increasing absolutely they’ll be looking at electric,” she told Hack.
Jude founded the Tesla Owners Club of Australia and she thinks the momentum for electric cars is building.
Jude decided to get an electric car for environmental reasons, but she said there’s more to it than that.
“There’s just so many advantages. So few moving parts compared to a petrol car, it’s so much cleaner, the instant torque is fantastic, much easier to maintain, much cheaper for fuel.”
But though running costs may be cheap, there’s one massive drawback that’s keeping consumers away: the cars themselves are super expensive.
“Electric vehicles still command something like a 25 per cent price premium over a conventional petrol-powered vehicle,” Steve Bletsos from the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce told Hack.
Electric vehicles make up a fraction of car sales
That could go some way to explaining why electric vehicles make up just a fraction of all car sales.
“We only have 2000 electric vehicles sold in Australia last year. Just 0.2 per cent of new sales,” Independent Senator Tim Storer, who heads up a parliamentary inquiry into electric vehicles, told Hack.
Dr Chris Jones, the National Secretary of the Australian Electric Vehicles Association, said there aren’t that many on the road.
“There are 8000, maybe a few more, plug-in vehicles [in Australia].”
“Tesla doesn’t seem to report how many electric vehicles they’ve got, but we estimate they’re in the order of 3000 to 4000,” Chris said.
Apart from cost, there’s the public perception of reliability. Most people drive no more than 50km a day, but heaps of you are still worried about running out of juice.
Chris said that concern is unfounded.
“The average brand new electric car these days is coming out with 150 kms to 350kms range. So range is just not an issue anymore,” he said.
Jude said having an electric car does require a bit more planning, but it’s manageable.
Tesla has supercharging stations up and down the east coast of Australia. It takes up to an hour to charge an electric car from zero to 100 per cent.
“From Adelaide to Brisbane, there’s a supercharger where you need one,” Jude said.
She used apps like PlugShare to check out where the best place to stop was on roadtrips. And if that doesn’t work out, Jude can plug her car in at home using a regular ol’ power point.
She said it doesn’t cost much to charge her car overnight.
Given petrol is expected to hit $2 a litre soon, that’s a lot cheaper than hitting the bowser.
Why doesn’t the Govt help out?
Australia is “close to the bottom” when it comes to the take up of electric vehicles.
Senator Storer said there’s a role for state and Commonwealth governments to step in.
“Many countries are announcing plans to phase out the sale of diesel and petrol cars. Fourteen countries in fact,” he said.
Australia isn’t on that list, and we don’t offer cash incentives for people to buy greener vehicles, like some other countries do.
But some states and territories are moving away from petrol-based vehicles.
Jude lives in Canberra, and she said she’s really happy with the way the ACT is treating the issue of electric cars.
Among the measures they’re considering are putting in electric vehicle transit lanes and making sure newly built apartment complexes have charging stations in the basement.
It has also set a target for its fleet cars – that is, the territory-owned vehicles that employees can use.
Senator Tim Storer says those measures should be standard across the country.
“Federally we should really push that further, because that would provide future second-hand vehicles from those fleets for use by the public as well,” he said.
Consequences of moving away from petrol
The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce has done some research on what would happen if we moved away from petrol-based vehicles.
“We looked at the impact of a 10 per cent uptake in electric vehicles by 2030,” Steve Bletsos said.
“The results of that modelling show that a reduction of 1000 businesses by 2030, and just over 3000 lost in terms of employment across the automotive industry.”
In other words, because electric cars require less maintenance, mechanics could find themselves out of work.
“There is no combustion system, there is no cooling system, there is no transmission system, there is no exhaust system,” Steve said.
The Federal Government also gets a whole lot of money from the fuel excise, which is currently 40c per litre of petrol.
That adds up to a whole of cash.
“In net terms it’s around $12.4 billion to $12.5 billion,” Steve said.
A lot of revenue generated from the fuel excise goes towards maintaining roads and building infrastructure, so if the excise gets slashed, those projects are threatened.
Senator Storer acknowledges that there’s a bumpy road ahead if we do move away from petrol-based vehicles. But he said we can’t be asleep at the wheel.
“It’s a disruption, but it’s better that we prepare for it and take action,” he said.