Possibly more than you might have imagined given the range limitations of many of them. That initial purchase price is offset by the potential for much lower running costs over the years, of course, but in terms of an initial purchase, the average EV is more expensive than its conventionally powered counterpart of the same size and place in the world. In fact, the cheapest electric passenger cars available brand new in Australia right now are in the mid-$40s which can mean nearer to $50,000 by the time you’ve paid the charges, taxes and stamp duties that apply.
So why do electric cars cost so much? Experience has taught us that tech is most expensive when its newest. Remember when a mobile phone was not just the size of the public phone box it replaced, but also several thousand 1980s dollars. The same applies to the cost of electric cars in Australia, although it’s hard to imagine that prices will take the same trajectory as mobile phones.
But just as we’ll see lighter, more efficient EVs that go farther on a single charge, it’s also likely that your $45,000 will eventually buy more EV than it does now. Like any new-ish tech, EV tech is expensive for a few reasons. The first is that the tech itself is still expensive to produce as manufacturers scramble to streamline production and make it as efficient as possible.
It’s also true that the materials that go into an EV – mainly the battery-packs – include some pretty rare ingredients that are not only relatively scarce on the planet, but can also be tricky to obtain. So the price of electric cars in Australia is as much to do with the cost of resources in other countries.
Economies of scale are also a factor. While car-makers are still producing a mix of EVs and conventional cars, they have a foot in both technological camps with two very different design and manufacturing strategies to pursue. But as they shift to a fully electric line-up, greater synergies in those fields will ensue, and that will reduce the upfront costs those car-makers face. Suddenly, all the money currently being invested in ICE will be channelled into EV technology.
Then there’s marketing. It would be a slack marketing department that didn’t attempt to cash in on the novelty, fashion element and trendy appeal of a must-have like an EV. And then targeting cashed-up early-adopters.
Then there’s the matter of how much does an electric car cost to run, and suddenly, the initial purchase price doesn’t seem so bad. That’s because you’ll be paying less for maintenance and nothing for petrol. Even though you will need to pay to charge up, at $2 a litre, petrol can’t compete per kilometre. But running costs are another story, so let’s stick to how much is an electric car to buy in the first place.
To give you an idea of what EVs cost in Australia right now, here’s a list of potential buys, from cheapest to most expensive. We haven’t included every EV available and prices will vary from state to state according on-road cost and state government rebate and incentive differences.
1. BYD Atto 3 – $44,381 plus on-road costs
This is, depending on your home state, the cheapest EV passenger car now available in this country. With a claimed range of between 320 and 420km (depending on what battery you buy) the 150kW output is also on the money.
2. MG ZS – $46,990 drive-away
The MG is the other Chinese car vying for title of cheapest Aussie EV. Battery capacity has increased to 51kWh with the mid-life update and range is up to 320km now. Build quality is okay and equipment levels are quite high.
3. Mini Cooper Electric – $55,650 plus on-road costs
Another of the mid-priced alternatives, the Cooper electric has all the conventional Mini’s charm and character, but you’re really paying for it. The problem is the range which, at 233km, traps the Mini into an urban-only role.
4. Kia Niro – $65,300 plus on-road costs
With a 150kW output and a claimed 460km range, the Niro looks the good on paper. The new-gen version has just arrived with a bump in standard gear and price. The new Kia EV6 at a little more money would be worth looking at as an alternative, but supply is an issue on that model.
5. Tesla Model 3 – $65,600
The best selling EV in the country, the Model 3 is also the car that’s offering EV buyers choice. There’s a choice of single or dual motor, standard or long-range and Performance. Buy the long-range and you’re looking at a claimed 580km of range although it’ll cost you another $15,000.
6. Polestar 2 Dual Motor Long Range – $73,400
Yes, you can have a Polestar 2 with 165kW for just under $64,000, but wouldn’t you move up the price list and buy the 300kW, all-wheel-drive, long-range version for less than 10-grand more? Forget that it’s based on the Volvo XC40, because the Polestar 2 has `future’ written all over it.
7. Mercedes-Benz EQC – $124,300
The all-electric Benz SUV wagon seems expensive, but when you look at what it gives you, it starts to look better. That starts with 300kW of power and while it’s a heavy car, with huge torque it drives like a Benz should.
8. Porsche Taycan – $159,700
The base model Taycan has rear-wheel-drive and 240kW of power, but the fact is it’s the only EV out there with a two-speed transmission for acceleration AND top speed. It’s when you get to the Turbo S with three motors, all-wheel-drive and 460kW that you really appreciate the concept. Except the price comparison will make you weep; $352,700.
Now for a wild-card; let’s talk second-hand EVs. Right now, the best value is probably a used Nissan Leaf from, say, 10 years ago. These are not huge performance cars, nor are they great on range (under 200km). But there are plenty for sale now at comfortably under $20,000 (some are just $16,000 or so) so they are a great entrée into the world of EV ownership.
By David Morley