EV buyer’s guide: what you should know

100 years ago, nearly a third of all cars on the road were electric. Fast forward to 2018 and we’re looking at roughly 2% of the global market share. With numbers tipped to grow to 5% by 2022 it looks like this is a trend to stay.

Not all electric vehicles are created equal, and with so many variables into how well an electric vehicle performs, we wanted to focus on what you should look out for when making a purchase.

Video: Want to invest in an electric vehicle? Here are some things to think about.

First up, what does HEV, P-HEV, BEV mean?

Hybrids Electric Vehicles (HEVs) start by using an electric motor which then cuts over to petrol as your speed increases. HEVs use petrol as their primary energy source but supplement it with electric energy sourced from batteries or your braking system. Think the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) or Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs) – use electrical energy and petrol from external sources. Options vary depending on your choice of energy source, for example the Holden Volt uses electricity while the Toyota Prius favours petrol.

A pure Electric Vehicle or Battery Electric Vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery that ranges from 16 kWh to 100 kWh. The bigger the battery, the further you can drive, and the higher the initial outlay is for your vehicle. Think Nissan Leaf and The Tesla Model S.

The age old question – new or used?

The Australian electric vehicle market is around 10 years old so it’s worthwhile considering whether you want to buy new or used. In what might be the only downside to the market, the constant innovation in relation to battery capability means once top-of-the-line electric vehicles are now selling used for nearly half of the initial purchase price. With options such as the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, you can find a used vehicle for a relatively cheap price.


One of the added benefits of purchasing an electric vehicle is a significant reduction in ongoing maintenance costs usually attributed to petrol, gas or diesel powered vehicles. A 2018 study showed that EVs typically cost less than half the cost to run a fuel powered car. There are less moving parts requiring lubrication or changing out due to wear and tear, such as brakes and exhausts. Things like distributor caps and clutches are a thing of the past.

Top 3 things to consider when purchasing an EV

Remember to be clear on the most important factors to you, whether it’s a purchase made to align with your sustainable lifestyle or it’s a cost saving exercise, a few key factors will determine whether you end up with your dream ride.

1. Battery health & warranty

Battery degradation is a ongoing concern for EV drivers and something that needs to be considered in the overall cost of your vehicle.

Battery state-of-charge (SOC) includes the amount of usable energy currently stored in the battery (i.e. how full is the tank?), whereas battery state-of-health (SOH) is a measure of the battery’s performance relative to a brand new one of the same make, model, and model year.

Ask about the degradation of the battery over time, remembering to check in on the expected lifespan of your EV battery and that it’s covered by a warranty. Ask your dealer, how long will this battery last and what will it cost to replace it? Typically, manufacturer warranties for EV batteries last around 8 years so use this as your baseline. Be sure to include those costs in your end calculations.

2. Charging options

Most new range EV’s come with the option of a dedicated EV charger than you can mount to your garage wall. If you do need a quick recharge, it’s worthwhile investing in an onboard charger. Onboard chargers guarantee that you’ll get the most out of your charge in a short period of time. Be sure to get a qualified Electrician in to check on the installation of your wall charger and any connections between your vehicle and home. Keep in mind too that the costs of a wall charger can range from 0 to $2500 depending on what you choose.

The other thing to consider is the public charging network available in your area. Make sure the vehicle you are choosing is compatible with the network. Over time this will become less of an issue but due to the relatively new charging network in Australia, it’s something to be mindful of.

For more information on what’s available in your area, check out the EV Council charge map.

3. Range

One of the most critical factors to consider is just how far you want to travel in your new EV. While ranges can go up to 500 Km on a single charge for models like the Tesla Model S, daily stop-starting of the average commuter will have an impact on the battery life.

The team at Gumtree have done a great job of pulling together the top 10 best range cars currently on the EV Market:

  1. Tesla Model S 500 km
  2. Nissan Leaf 170 km
  3. BMW i3 160 km or 300 km with range extender option using petrol
  4. Kia Soul 148 km
  5. Honda Fit 132 km
  6. Chevrolet Spark 132 km
  7. Ford Focus Electric 122 km
  8. BEV Electron 120 km
  9. Mitsubishi i-MiEV 99 km
  10. Holden Volt 87 km without petrol / 600 km with full charge and petrol generator

“As most motorists drive around 35 – 70 km per day and the average range of electric vehicles is currently around 100 – 150 km, EVs are definitely a good option for most drivers.”

4. Cost to charge

In comparison with a typical family fuel powered car, electric vehicles cost significantly less to run. Canstar Blue says that “most vehicles will cost around $5 in electricity for every 100 km of driving. This is much cheaper than petroleum vehicles, which can cost upward of $15 for this same distance.”

Canstar EV charge comparison

ModelBattery sizeCost to chargeRangeCost per 100KM
Tesla Model X100 kWh$28.70500 km$5.74
Tesla Model S 6075k Wh$21.53425 km$5.07
Ford Focus Electric (2017)*30 kWh$8.61160 km$5.38
Tesla Model 3*60 kWh$17.22300 km$5.74
Nissan Leaf30 kWh$8.61172 km$5.01
BMW i3 (2017)33 kWh$9.47183 km$5.18
Mitsubishi i-MiEV16kWh$4.59100 km$4.59
Chevrolet Spark19 kWh$5.45131 km$4.16
Kia Soul27 kWh$7.75150 km$5.17

*Speculated specifications: Assumes electricity usage rate of 28.7c/kWh

The current EV product range available in Australia is targeted at the luxury consumer market, with the majority of available vehicles costing above $100K. There are only 2 vehicles (Zoe & Kangaroo ZE) coming in under $50K which could be considered an obstacle to growing our local market.

However, with clear consumer benefits such as lower running and maintenance costs, a definite positive impact on the environment and the potential to connect your car with your home for future charging possibilities, we’re looking forward to the eventual ground-swell encouraging EV manufacturing investment in Australia and pushing down prices for good.

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