To date EVs (electric vehicles) in Australia have had a cult following with a niche few. Their high purchase price, low battery range, availability of charging stations, and futuristic (almost weird) looks have kept them out of the mainstream.
Nissan was the first major manufacturer in Australia with an EV in 2013. Since then, a number of manufacturers have followed, mainly European models, but sales were lower than expected. Tesla has since taken over the headlines and expanded the market to sedans and SUVs. A cult following of their own (you have to pay to be in their Facebook forums), their large purchase price has limited their market to a small few.
2019 will see the release of the next generation of EVs in Australia. The Nissan Leaf, Tesla 3, and BMW i3. All take EVs to the next level, addressing most of the key concerns the Australian market has had. Their ranges are longer – expecting the average Australian to only need to charge once per week. Their prices are more affordable than previous (but still expensive). Their connectivity is terrific – introducing Apple and Android into Australian cars for the first time. And their look is more mainstream. All of these factors will open up EVs to a much wider audience than today.
Of the 3, the Nissan Leaf will have the highest mainstream appeal due to its price. While none of the 3 manufacturers have announced their Australian pricing, the Leaf is expected to be around the $50,000 mark and will appeal to the luxury small car market. The Tesla 3 will come in slightly higher, but will capture the mid-size car market, and the BMW i3 is set to be the most expensive, closer to the $80,000 mark, appealing to the luxury car buyer.
There’s still a lot of mystery about EVs in Australia. But in China, Norway, and California, EVs are now a normal part of life. According to research firm Kantar TNS, 62% of Australians believe that EVs are the way of the future, and 29% are considering purchasing one over the next 3-years. If EVs are inevitable, the question is how do you decide if and when one is right for you?
In the future, we won’t be talking vehicles, we will be talking connectivity, mobility, and energy.
- Connectivity: Vehicles will be able to connect to your home, other cars, and people through the use of Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. In short, vehicles will become iPads on wheels. The Leaf will be the first to introduce this technology to Australia.
- Mobility: Technology and services that allow people and businesses to move around more freely. With population growth and increased urban density, car sharing and ride-sharing will continue to rise. Already, we see young adults of today delaying or deciding against a driver’s licence. Car-sharing and ride-sharing businesses and apps are becoming more prevalent and the technology in cars that enable this is becoming increasingly important.
- Energy: Emissions from the transport sector has increased by 47% in Australia since 1990. There is an increased global social responsibility, led by major global corporates, to reduce carbon emissions by providing alternative energy sources. How we live and commute will evolve to meet the increasing demand for a more sustainable planet. Thinking green is becoming more mainstream. The Leaf will be the first EV in Australia to use a 2-way power source between cars and houses.
What you need to know about EVs
- It’s a different driving experience. Quicker off the pedal, smoother, and noticeably quieter. Without an engine, they have a lower centre of gravity and are much, much quieter. The first time you drive an EV, it’s almost eerily quiet. In a good way.
- It’s a different mindset. The first time you drive an EV, you’ll move from buying a vehicle to get from A-B. To owning a socially responsible, connected mobile technology that gets you from A-B. There are clubs devoted to this movement – not the weird and overly-geeky, but a new version of cool and elite.
- They need less servicing. With no oil to change and fewer components, you’ll see your mechanic less and save on maintenance.
- Governments are providing incentives: In Australia, both state governments and insurance companies have been providing incentives for EV owners for some time – such as lower registration, stamp duty, and insurance policies. Incentives are set to increase over time with possible access to free (or cheaper) parking, and access to restricted lanes.
So does the next generation Nissan Leaf address the concerns that Australians have?
Concern No. 1: Driving range
The next generation of EVs in Australia has increased their driving range to close to 300km. The average Australian drives 38km per week according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is set to reduce as urban areas increase public transport and ride-sharing. The Leaf has a driving range of 270km; so for the average Australian, they only need to do a full charge once per week.
Having said that, it does depend on how you drive. The Leaf comes with a number of driving modes. The better the drive, the more charge you use. That is, if you like a more responsive, smoother, faster ride, you’ll have to charge more regularly.
Two-thirds of Australians own a garage. More than most countries. Our typical driving routine is from home to work, or home to school. And we’re already in the habit of having to charge our mobile phones overnight. This current behaviour lends itself to EV adoption.
Concern No. 2: Price
EVs have typically been more expensive than their fuel counterparts. While 70% of Australians are willing to invest more for lower running costs, there does come a point where the cost outweighs the benefit. However, the next generation of EVs is set to come at a lower cost, bringing them in line with the current luxury car market. The next generation EVs also compete (even excel) in offering the higher end specifications.
But the move to electric goes further in terms of return on investment. One of the features that is unique to the Leaf is 2-way power. Which means that energy stored in your car can be used in your house, and vice-versa. Creating an efficient grid system for your house and car, if you have solar energy. This adds to the return on investment debate, potentially reducing your home energy bills, and is surely the way of the future.
The Nissan Leaf verdict
- Connectivity: Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto; 8-inch touchscreen display.
- Increased driving range: 270km
- Increased power 110kW and increased torque 320Nm: faster acceleration.
- New e-Pedal: 1 pedal driving. It will take some getting used to – but can be turned off.
- Intelligent safety features: a 360-degree camera; driver alert; predictive collision warning; emergency braking; lane intervention; traffic sign recognition.
- Fully spec’d: with most of the bells and whistles.
- The most accessible EV. Likely to be the lowest cost EV on the market in 2019. Coupled with its stylish design, the Leaf takes the traditionally odd-shaped and expensive EV stereotype to a broader mainstream appeal.
- Greater connectivity. Reportedly the first car to bring Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto to Australia. Allowing owners to integrate their mobile apps and connect with people, home and other cars.
- 2-way power source.The car’s battery can power your home and your home’s solar power can power your car, thereby creating an efficient in-home grid system that allows users to generate their own energy source from the sun or wind.
- Challenging if you don’t have a home garage. Yes, more Australians have a garage than most countries around the world; however, 1/3 of Australians don’t. To make an EV practical, you really need a home charging station. Otherwise, you’re reliant on shopping centres and the like. Intermediary technology is currently available overseas that allows for a petrol run generator to be installed in an EV to power its battery. It’s not a 0% emission solution, but it is a good compromise. This technology is yet to be available in Australia. There is also some discussion at the moment about charger compatibility. Think different chargers for different types of mobile phones. You’d think manufacturers would go straight for a universal option; however, what we’re seeing are varying chargers and compatibility issues. So, you may find yourself reliant on an external charger at work, a shopping centre, or remotely and find that you can’t connect. This will need to be resolved to support greater EV adoption.
- Limited to the small car market. For car owners with other needs, the Leaf is not for you. And at this point, there are limited EV options in the mid-large car market. Tesla has led the way by providing various size options; however, they’re either way out of most Australians’ budgets or not yet available in Australia.
Regulatory and social change means that increased EV adoption is inevitable. The question of if (or when) you adopt will depend on your current vehicle and lifestyle requirements.
If you’re one of the 29% of Australians that are considering purchasing an EV over the next 3 years, you will have more options than ever before. The second-generation Nissan Leaf will be the next step to making EVs more accessible. It’s fully spec’d, nicely designed, and great to drive – a vehicle that will suit those who want to enter the EV market in the small car range, and who are looking for a higher-end vehicle.
For those looking for a larger EV option, you’ll have to wait a little longer. The mid-size Tesla 3 is set to be in Australia in mid-2019. However, the reported back orders and production line problems are likely to see this date delayed. Other manufacturers are catching up, which will no doubt open up this market further.