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What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle is powered by electricity instead of petrol or diesel.
They run off batteries, which can be charged at your home or by plugging into a charging station while you’re out and about.
All in all, they are cheaper to run and can be a lower carbon option than a conventional car¹ – particularly if you also have solar panels installed at home.
Can electric vehicles tow?
The short answer is yes – most electric vehicles should be all good to tow anything your average combustion engine car can, including light trailers, bike racks and ever smaller boats.
If you’re looking to tow something bigger, like a large boat, the vehicles you can get in Australia might not quite be there yet – but electric vehicles that can tow two or more tonnes (over 2000 kg) are likely to be available here soon².
That being said, some electric vehicle manufacturers are taking their time certifying tow kits that meet Australia’s specific design rules. So if towing is important to you, it’s worth double-checking the car you’ve got your eye on can get the job done.
How does home charging work for an electric vehicle?
Most new electric vehicles in Australia come with a charging cable that can be plugged into an ordinary power point and used for slow charging – overnight in your garage, for example. Charging cables can also be bought separately if they don’t come with the vehicle.
If you want a faster charging option at home you can get a small charging station professionally installed, for charging that’s generally around three times as fast as a standard charging cable.
If you’re thinking of getting a really high-end electric vehicle, it’s worth knowing that some of them can only be charged with what’s called ‘three-phase’ power – and if you want to charge it at home, you’ll probably need to upgrade your home power setup.
Why get an electric vehicle?
There’s a pretty vital difference between electrical vehicles and conventional cars. While vehicles are traditionally fuelled by combustion engines (typically running on petrol or diesel), electrical vehicles run their motors directly off battery power.
As you can probably imagine, that offers some great benefits.
Conventional cars need to use combustion to inefficiently convert fuel into energy inside their engine, whereas electric vehicles can just send power directly to your wheels – the energy you need is already sitting right there in your battery. That efficiency makes for much cheaper running costs.
While conventional cars need to be refuelled at petrol stations, electric vehicle batteries can be charged at home – with the option of using public charging stations if you’re out and about, or on a longer trip.
Electric vehicles can be better for the environment and create less CO2⁴ emissions than cars with combustion engines – especially if they’re being charged from a renewable power source like home solar panels.
What costs are there for owning an electric vehicle?
Are electric vehicles more expensive to run than convectional cars?
Electric vehicles are currently more expensive to buy new than a conventional car, but they’re much less expensive to run over the course of their lifetime – which can make them cheaper overall. Charging their batteries is much cheaper than buying fuel for a conventional car, and they don’t need to be serviced nearly as often, since they don’t have an engine that needs maintaining. Another plus is that many states have rebates and incentives for buying an electric vehicle³.
How much does it cost to have an electric vehicle serviced?
Electric vehicles generally cost less to service than a conventional car as there are less moving parts to make them go. A typical service of an EV can be as little as $160 for every two years to $299 per year for a car like BYD Atto 3 SUV⁸.
Charging your EV
How often will I need to charge my electric vehicle?
It all depends on how you’re using your car. Most people who can charge from home just plug in and charge daily – kind of the same way you’d charge your phone while you sleep.
If charging at home isn’t an option, charging once every seven days at a public fast charger is enough to get most city drivers through the week.
Can I charge an electric vehicle while it’s raining?
You can charge an electric vehicle while it’s raining – and in most other weather conditions⁵.
The vehicles are specifically engineered to withstand water intrusion. In fact, they’re rated a 7 when it comes to protecting against water intrusion, which might not sound like much – until you consider that a rating of 8 is reserved for submersibles and oceanic equipment.
How much does charging an electric vehicle cost?
If you’re charging your electric vehicle at home, it’ll set you back around $12 to get up to 350 km worth of battery power. If you’ve got solar panels installed, it’ll cost even less to fill your battery – probably around $6⁶.
It costs a little more if you’re using a public charging station. Prices vary, but on average it’s about $30 for a fast charge that adds enough battery power to give you around 350 km of driving.
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The average electric car battery is expected to last around 15 years, with many electric vehicle manufacturers guaranteeing their batteries for eight years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first⁹.
Yes! Electric vehicles can road trip with the best of them.
You’ll need to refuel at charging stations during your trip, which might take a bit more planning in terms of where to stop to charge. During busy holiday periods you might also hit queues at the chargers, so plan accordingly.
But with more and more charging stations are popping up all the time, this kind of forward planning may soon be a thing of the past.
There are a growing number of public charging stations where you can charge your electric vehicle. They’re often close to supermarkets, petrol stations, hotels, parks or tourist destinations.
There are a few different types of charging station, but they’re generally usable by any electric vehicle – with the exception of Tesla’s superchargers, which can only be used by Tesla cars.
Almost all public charging stations can be used by any electric vehicle – generally you just need the right app downloaded on your phone. Some without an attached cable may also require you to take your own cable. You can use the cable supplied with your vehicle at the time of purchase (if included).
The only exception is Telsa’s Supercharger network, which can only be used by Tesla cars in Australia.
With no engine to speak of, electric vehicles are super quiet. Almost too quiet – laws have been introduced making it mandatory for them to emit warning sounds when driving at low speeds, to make sure pedestrians can hear them.
Hybrid cars are a bet both ways – they’ve got both a combustion engine (running on petrol or diesel) and a chargeable battery, giving some efficiency and environmental benefits while still ultimately running off fossil fuels.
There are two main types of hybrids. Standard hybrids can’t plug in to charge their battery, and the battery plays more of a support role to the engine – gaining charge during driving to create better efficiency.
Plug-in hybrids let you plug in to charge up the battery, making them more like electric vehicles with supplementary combustion engines.
Hydrogen vehicles are an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol-powered cars¹⁰. They run on hydrogen (naturally) and create power using a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with the only by-product being water vapour.
So how do they stack up against electric vehicles? The upshot is hydrogen cars can travel further on a single tank (versus a full battery charge) and are quicker to refuel, but they’re more expensive to operate and maintain.
Another pretty significant difference is that while charging stations for electrical vehicles are popping up all over Australia, right now there are only a handful of places to refuel hydrogen vehicles.
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