New to the electric vehicle market?

EV expert Bryce Gaton spells out what you need to know, unlearn and debunk.

Your new year’s goal is to buy an electric vehicle – but where do you begin? I suggest first starting with ‘unlearning’ a few of the things you’ve become habituated to through years of driving internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

What do you need to ‘unlearn’?

Number one thing to unlearn concerns local travel; you no longer have to make time for finding, stopping and refuelling at a petrol station. Your refuelling point moves to wherever your destination is: no extra time allowance needed. Arrive, plug-in and do your thing whilst your car does its thing.

Number two is related to the first: no more fuel price cycle. You choose when (and at what price) you ‘refuel’ at. Need a charge when you get home in the evening? Yes, you will pay peak electricity rates. Need it charged in the morning? Program the charging and pay off-peak rates. Have solar PV? Use it when you’re home in daylight hours: that fuel costs you almost nothing!

Number three: instead of L/100 km (litres per hundred kilometres), think kWh/100 km (kilowatt-hours per hundred kilometres). That will ensure you can easily work out how long a recharge takes/how long you need to get a top-up charge when away from home. (Yes, you will very occasionally forget to charge at home before heading out for the day!)

Number four: The days of the plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) are numbered, so choose the full-battery EV (BEV), not PHEV. Overseas, the PHEV with its combination of ICE and EV drivetrains is on its way out as BEVs close in on driving range and price.

In Norway (the leader in the EV Transition) 93% of new cars sold there in 2023 were PEVs (PEV = plug-in EVs, being the combination of BEV + PHEV). However, of that 93%, 87% were BEV and 6% were PHEV. PHEVs are also losing their favoured status under legislation in many countries due to their problematic ‘green’ status.

Even here in Australia, after March 2025, PHEVs will no longer be included in the favourable Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) treatment that BEVs and PHEVs currently receive.

Now for the new things to learn

‘Refuelling’ methods are now chosen to suit your stay at a destination

If your car uses 15kWh/100km, then recharging for 8 hrs at work on a power point providing 2 kW gives 8 x 2kWh = 16 kWh. That’s just over 100 km replaced.

At home, 15 hours overnight on a power point gives 200 km replaced. Using a 7 kW wall charger at work for 8 hours will give 370 km replaced. At work, 3 phase chargers are easy to install and 8 x 11 = 88 kWh, which is more than a full charge for most BEVs.

(See also charging times table below). An overnight charge at home on a 7 kW charger will also give you a full charge by morning. A general summary of these times and charge rates is shown in the table below.

If you are on the road – say travelling from Melbourne to Sydney (a trip I do several times a year by BEV) – this is when DC charging comes into play.

DC chargers can charge up to 150 times or more faster than a power point (depending on charger size and BEV). This means with BEVs that have the latest DC charging speeds using the fastest chargers, a 10 to 20 minute stop is often all that needed.

Given the 400 to 500 km driving range of the modern long-range BEV models – this adds up to a 10 to 20 minute stop every 2 to 3 hrs at most. Very little more than needed for an ICE vehicle – but it is exactly how long you need to stop to be safe on an extended trip.

By the way: for trips within the range of your BEV, you still don’t need a DC charger as you can recharge at your overnight stay with no refuelling stop/time-out required.

To tie this all down to a specific car: below is a summary of the charging methods and times for a Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Ioniq 5 has a WLTP 17 kWh/100 km efficiency (2WD long-range version). It can charge at up to 7.4 kW at the typical home, 11 kW on three phase AC and up to 230 kW on a DC charger. If you want a similar table specific to your intended BEV – go to https://www.aeva.asn.au/info/and scroll down to your chosen BEV model.

With this new knowledge, we can now debunk a few EV myths:

Myth 1: EV charging takes hours and slows you down compared to an ICE car.

Yes, charging from a power point can take many hours – but if you’re asleep and you only want 100 to 200 km recharged, did it matter? You choose your charging solution to suit your needs. If you do find it difficult to work out your best home or workplace charger solution, electricians are now being schooled in how to help you.

Myth 2: EV charging is no cheaper than refuelling with petrol.

Even at the highest public DC charger fees and using the most expensive DC network for 100% of your charging, you’ll still be paying less than half the price of the ‘average’ petrol bill for 10,000 km. For more on this topic – see my article here.

Myth 3: You need all petrol stations replaced with DC chargers before BEVs will be viable.

Studies show 80% or more of BEV charging is done where you live, with less than 5% done at DC chargers. As a result, the EV Transition does not need a 1:1 swap of petrol stations to DC charge sites. It’s more likely that 95% of petrol stations had better look for a business model other than selling fossil fuels…

Deceased fuel station, Norseman WA. Image: B Gaton
Abandone fuel station, Norseman, WA (Image: Bryce Gaton)

Roadhouses in regional areas and on major intercity routes will, of course, stay, with chargers eventually replacing fuel bowsers. Larger city ones on major routes will also stay for travellers … and for those people who forget to recharge. (As we do occasionally now with our mobile phones). But that latter group will always be small as DC chargers cost more than recharging at home. That’s a big incentive for remembering to recharge at the cheapest price!

Summing up: charging an EV generally happens where you live. The small local servo is already in decline, and the rise of the BEV will only hasten that. (Unless of course they are well-placed to become a small coffee shop or convenience store with a few DC chargers as a point of difference to attract customers).

Choosing you BEV: what do you need/what is irrelevant?

So you are now armed with how to enjoy refuelling a BEV without possibly ever seeing a fuel station again – what do you need to know about EVs to choose between them?

First-up, EVs are still cars. You will still choose the size, type and configuration that best suits your needs. However, moving to BEV is a good time to re-evaluate these criteria.

There are way more 4WD dual-cab utes on our roads than can possibly be justified as tradies needing tool and materials carrying space. Same for big SUVs with oodles of cabin space and huge tow ratings that could lug a big caravan to Cape York at the drop of a hat … that are instead carrying one passenger to work most of the time and NEVER travel to cape York. Do you really need that???

If you commute around town, need space for a couple of kids and tow a 6×4 trailer occasionally: there are plenty of smaller BEVs that can do that. (See summary page at https://www.aeva.asn.au/info/  for, amongst other things, size category and tow rating of all BEVs on the Australian market). For simple two person commuting and day trips – perhaps a Fiat 500e is all you need.

Secondly: efficiency and range matter, but battery chemistry doesn’t. This, by the way, will be regarded by some as my most controversial statement ever! It will certainly raise the ire of LFP battery devotees. But the facts are that all EV batteries are safe and last well. The differences are marginal and analogous to choosing between an ICE car that uses premium or standard petrol.

LFP chemistry batteries are said to be best charged to 100% every time, NMC chemistry batteries are said to prefer 90%, but are fine to charge to 100% when leaving for a long trip the next day. On the other hand, LFP batteries on DC chargers charge slightly more slowly than NMC.

Summing up this point: choose a battery type if you want to, but don’t avoid buying an EV simply because it doesn’t have the battery chemistry you’d like.

On the other hand, like checking the litres/100 km rating on a new car window sticker, BEV electrical efficiency figures are important. These are generally shown in Wh/km. (If you want, you can divide that number by 10 to get the kWh/100 km number).

Also, make sure you use the same rating system when comparing them. WLTP is used in Europe and gives a good all-round figure. The US EPA number is closer if you travel a lot in 80 km/hr outer suburban and regional 100 km/hr roads.

The NEDC number (still used here under our outdated fuel efficiency/fuel quality standards) is best described as Not Even Darn Close. Still useful for comparing cars using the same system, NEDC provides unachievable driving range figures. (For more on the main vehicle rating systems – see article here). To easily find the NEDC, WLTP and US EPA range and efficiency figures for a chosen BEV model, they are included in the individual model Fact Sheets at https://www.aeva.asn.au/info/ .

For example, a car that uses 20 kWh/100 km will need twice the battery size to go the same distance as one that uses 10 kWh/100 km … or go half the distance on the same size battery. Why pay for a bigger battery if a more efficient BEV does it better with a smaller battery? A smaller battery means cheaper too. Manufacturers are also working hard to improve their efficiencies – for example, Volvo/Polestar have recently done some hard-yards improving theirs.

Thirdly: choose wisely for battery size. If unsure, I recommend picking the medium to long-range versions over the shortest range options. Mind you, that doesn’t apply if you only ever do short trips. In that case, the shortest range one will be the ideal choice without wasting money on a battery bigger than you will never need. If pressed, short-range BEVs will do the longer runs too now, given that DC chargers are getting to be all over the place. You will need to stop more often though.

The reasons I recommend longer range versions rather choosing a short-range one that ‘just’ meets you needs are:

  1. they are likely to hold their value slightly better;
  2. they give you a buffer as the battery ages.

To explain point (b): BEV batteries lose capacity at around 1% a year and are generally guaranteed for around 70% or 80% remaining after 8 years. This is worst-case and covers batteries that are failing due to a manufacturing fault – they don’t lose that much normally.

So, unlike what some people will try to tell you: BEV batteries don’t fall-over at eight years old. (Just like petrol motors don’t fail the day after the warranty runs out). For the average BEV battery, a 500 km range BEV losing 1% a year will after ten years still have a 450 km range left. That’s perhaps five to ten extra minutes at a DC charger stop on a Melbourne to Sydney trip … and you would never notice the difference around town.

This basically means that modern batteries will last the life of the car, even if it’s 20 years. (The average Australian car age is by the way 10.6 years). On the other hand, if you bought the 320 km short-range version based on a regular trip of 300 km – after 5 or 6 years, your battery might have reduced in capacity just enough to need a quick DC charge on the way there or back.

As an example here: the MG4 offers three battery sizes. These are 51 kWh, 64 kWh and 77 kWh for WLTP ranges of 350, 450 and 530 km. Pricing for each is $42k, $48k and $60k (on-the-road in Victoria). In the above scenario, the middle battery option might be the better choice over the budget one.

Fourth: if you’re waiting for a sub-$40k BEV – this is your year! The first few to break that barrier happened in 2023 – and more will follow this year. However, as manufacturers make more money selling bigger, more luxurious cars, sadly they won’t be hurrying to release too many.

The Chinese manufacturers are going to have a say here as they will continue to exploit that segment this year. As this will start to cannibalise sales from elsewhere, it will force the hand of the European, US and other Asian manufacturers.

Therefore, whilst 2024 will see an influx of cheaper Chinese models, 2025 will be the year the others start to release theirs. As examples, VW and Renault – to name a couple – have already announced plans to release smaller, cheaper BEV models for 2025.

Fifth: don’t forget the FBT changes brought in by the federal government last year. If you currently lease a car , the changes have tilted the playing field heavily towards making your next leased vehicle an EV. And remember: from April 1 next year, those changes will also only apply to BEVs, not PHEVs.

So that’s about it: if a BEV meets your price and specification needs now there is by the way no need to wait for another technology ‘breakthrough’. BEV tech is maturing and the changes happening now are better described as incremental rather than step-changes.

In fact, BEVs from five years ago still match it against many new ones. (Like my 2019 Kona electric). Unlike the period from 2008 to 2018, BEVs are now improving at much the same pace that ICE cars have done over the last 100 plus years.

However, there is one new technology on the horizon – and that’s Vehicle to Home (V2H) and the associated Vehicle to Grid (V2G). These provide power out of the battery to the home and/or grid. If you want V2H/G, you may need to wait another 12 – 18 months to see what tech wins there, plus get a BEV that can do it. (FYI: an article on this topic is coming soon).

As a final note: for more on ‘choosing your first EV’ – if you are in Sydney for Everything Electric February 9th to 11th, I will be speaking on this on Saturday 10th at 10.45am. See you there!

Author
Bryce Gaton
March 3, 2024
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