Everything you need to know about buying an electric vehicle

The introduction of production electric vehicles (EVs) to Australia became a topical issue when support for speeding their roll out was raised as an issue in the 2019 federal election campaign.

Here are some answers to questions we regularly get about EVs.

What is RACQ’s position on EVs?

  • RACQ encourages the take up of all low emission vehicles, regardless of the technology they use.
  • RACQ believes that EVs will inevitably become much more common.
  • EVs are only one potential solution to vehicle emission related issues, however at this point they are the most market ready.

What is the difference between an EV, a Hybrid vehicle and an EV with range extender?

Hybrid vehicles utilise a combination of both internal combustion and electric drive trains, while an EV only has an electric drive train to power the vehicle. The most significant aspect for the owner is that when a hybrid runs out of battery power it can still be driven by the petrol engine. This is not the case with an EV unless it has a range extender. A range extender is an axillary power unit that recharges the battery pack when necessary. They are usually a small internal combustion engine (ICE) but could also be a fuel cell. Range extenders are not common in the Australian market. Some range extenders can also drive the vehicle, though arguably these could be classed as a form of hybrid vehicle.

How “green” are EVs?

While EVs produce no exhaust emissions, the power source for battery charging can produce CO2 emissions. In effect, the emissions are transferred from the point of vehicle use to the point of power generation.

Actual CO2 emissions vary from state to state and depend on the source used for electricity generation.

To compare an EV’s CO2 emissions with the Combined Cycle CO2 emissions of a conventional vehicle, multiply the EVs Energy consumption (Wh/km) * by 0.92**

Example: 117 Wh/km x 0.92 = 107.6 g/km

The result can then be compared to the Combine Cycle CO2 emissions of a conventional vehicle as listed on the Green Vehicle Guide. (This example would equate to a petrol-powered vehicle with a fuel consumption of approximately 4.6 l/100km)

*Available from https://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/

**Applies to vehicles operating in Queensland. This figure may be different for other states.

Why aren’t EVs more common?

In 2019 EV sales represented less than 1% of total Australian vehicle sales. Likely reasons for this include:

Limited model range and high prices

  • EVs need to align with buyer expectations of price points, equipment levels, running costs, value proposition, etc. before they gain widespread acceptance.
  • EV and battery technology are expensive and unlikely to become significantly cheaper in the near future, though new players are entering the market and will likely drive costs and prices down over time.

Long recharge times if no fast charge facility is available

  • Charging times typically range from less than 1 hour for fast chargers to at least overnight for lower power recharge options.
  • Commercially available fast charge facilities are currently in development. These promise to provide compatible EVs with sufficient charge in about 10 minutes for 350km of travel, however they require large amounts of electricity which will limit their roll out to areas with suitable supporting infrastructure.

Range anxiety and public perceptions of EV practicality

  • EV range is typically less than many conventional vehicles would travel on a full tank. Like conventional vehicles, the quoted power consumption, and therefore range, is largely dependent on battery capacity, road conditions and how the vehicle is driven.
  • The range numbers quoted in the Green Vehicle Guide are likely to be achievable only under ideal driving conditions.
  • Most EVs are likely to have sufficient range to cover the daily travel needs of many operators, but they may not have the range to meet their recreational or occasional needs.
  • The buying public needs to become comfortable with the technology before there is widespread take up. This is common with all new technologies.

Limited recharge option

  • A mix of home and commercial recharge facilities will be needed to satisfy the needs of most users.
  • Home recharge facilities can be slow due to limitations on available power, or costly due to the need for specialised charging devices.
  • Commercial recharging infrastructure is still being rolled out across Queensland and is limited in many regional areas.

Market segment limitations

EVs are currently not offered, or have limited offerings, in some popular market segments, such as utilities, off road vehicles, etc

Uncertainty about battery life and replacement cost

  • Battery life is as yet unknown as few EVs have been in service for a long period.
  • The battery represents a significant part of the vehicle’s value. Replacement cost is expected to be high and would likely exceed the value of an older EV.
  • Alternative sources of replacement batteries are likely to be limited or non-existent.

The option to repair faulty batteries rather than replace them is not yet in place to any great extent.

Uncertainty about vehicle resale / residual value

  • Current projections by a recognised industry pricing service suggests that residual values of EVs will be similar to conventional vehicles after 5 years. However, as EVs are more expensive to buy, the total financial loss will be higher.

How long are EV batteries warranted for?

Expect traction batteries to have a longer warranty than the rest of the car. Typically, this would be between 8 and 10 years. However, battery warranties can be complex. Many vehicle manufacturers have very specific conditions, including what they consider to be an acceptable loss of battery capacity.

How do I find recharging facilities?

There are several online tools for locating recharging facilities. Plugshare and Chargefox are a couple of them.

Note too that different EV manufacturers use different charging plug arrangements, however most commercial charging facilities (except those dedicated to a specific brand) should be able to accommodate most of the different arrangements.

How does the electricity cost for an EV compare to fuel consumption of a conventional car?

For most people the simplest and most meaningful comparison will be the cost to travel 100 km.

For an EV:

Wh/km* ÷ 10 = kWh/100km

kWh x applicable electricity tariff = $ / 100 km


117 Wh/km ÷ 10 = 11.7 kWh
11.7 x 0.266** = $3.12 /100km

*Available from https://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/

**Based on QLD Tariff 11 of 0.266 c/ kWh. Note: Tariffs can vary. Commercial charge stations often charge more.

For a conventional vehicle:

L/100km * x fuel cost ($/L) = $ / 100 km

Example: 4.5 x $1.50 ** = $6.75 / 100 km

* Use combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the chosen vehicle from https://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/

** Example of fuel cost only. Substitute as applicable.

How far can an EV be driven on a single charge?

This is known as operating range and is listed in the Green Vehicle Guide for each EV.

Note however that the range numbers quoted are likely to be achievable only under ideal driving conditions.

How do maintenance costs of EVs compare to conventional models?

EVs have fewer drivetrain parts than a conventional vehicle and will therefore require less maintenance. However, EVs will still require repair and servicing to things like brake systems, tyres, etc. so they will not be entirely maintenance free. This could have a major impact on the future profitability of repair facilities but will be a plus for EV buyers. The high cost of replacement batteries cannot be overlooked however.

Are EVs safe?

EVs are designed and built to recognised international standards and have been proven to be safe in service.

Technicians are specifically trained to repair and service these vehicles and DIY repairs are not encouraged.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.