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Your guide to switching to an electric car

22 February 2022
• 7 minute read
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By Ben Gribbin

It seems more and more electric vehicles are hitting Australian roads. However, switching from a fossil-fuel-powered car to an electric model can still seem a little daunting. The good news is, that with more models available (at lower prices), zero exhaust emissions and a whisper-quiet ride, it could be the perfect time to make the switch.

This guide will help you get ready to make the switch to an electric car.

What driving range is needed?

Before making the leap to an electric vehicle (EV), you need to do a simple calculation.

It’ll help if you jot down the trip distances you travel, which can be done easily using your car’s trip computer or a smartphone. Then, divide the total of all those kilometres by the number of days you logged journeys (the longer you do this, the better). This figure will give you a general idea of how much range you need from an electric car.

Say you travel an average of 60km per day, all currently available electric cars in Australia should handle that distance easily, multiple times. Some, like the Tesla Model S, will theoretically do it as many as 10.5 times more before needing a recharge (depending on how you drive and other factors).

If you also take into account that the average national commuting distance as of 2016 was 16km, that makes a 32km return journey. Although, 73% of working Australians travelled less than 20km to get to their job. The pandemic has probably affected those figures too, so you may be surprised how far you really need to go each day.

You can save money if you know how far you need to drive, by opting for an EV with an appropriately sized battery pack that suits your daily driving needs.

What grants and rebates are available?

Before buying an EV, check to see if you can get any subsidies or rebates. Electric vehicle subsidies are now available throughout many Australian states and territories. SA, VIC, ACT, NSW, NT, QLD and TAS all have some sort of incentive program.

These range from small bonuses like a reduced electric vehicle rego rate, right up to $3,000 grants – depending on where you live. There’s also a federal initiative, which raises the luxury car tax threshold for electric vehicles. Make sure to check which subsidies apply in your state and for your EV of choice – for example, if you’re buying a used one.

Charging an EV

We don’t give much thought to filling up our conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, as the concept of a fuel station is nearly as old as the automobile itself. But with electric cars still in their relative infancy, the charging infrastructure isn’t as established as the petrol pump network.

When buying an EV, you need to find where your local charging points are and give consideration to where you can stop to charge the battery for longer trips. If you have a driveway, garage or carport, you could install a home charger for easily achievable overnight top-ups.

For the times when you’re away from home, your EV will typically have a map of the surrounding charge locations. You can also download apps from public charging station operators such as ChargeFox or the EV resource PlugShare, which show each charger on a map. At the moment, these charging points tend to be concentrated near medium- to high-density population areas, for obvious reasons. Some places of work have even fitted charging points for their employees to use.

It’s also handy to make a note of the charging capabilities of your car. Some rapid and ultra-fast chargers output huge amounts of juice, but if a particular EV can’t handle that level of voltage, then you won’t benefit from the lower charge times.

Before you buy, consider the charging facilities in your local area.

Price considerations

There’s no escaping the fact electric cars cost more than comparable non-EV models. For example, the Hyundai Kona Elite, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine starts from $35,363.46 driveaway, rising to $41,955.46 for a Highlander Kona. Meanwhile, the Kona Electric Elite starts from $59,346.46 (correct as of January 2022) and runs right up to $69,321.46 (for an extended range Highlander model – again, on offer).

The Kona Electric is 67.8% more expensive than its petrol counterpart, while the Highlander Kona Electric is 50.1% more costly. Put another way, these two models are on average $22,520 more than their ICE-equipped equivalent. You have to weigh up if you want to outlay that additional sum for an electric vehicle and whether it’ll fit in your budget. However, if your heart is truly set on an electric car, it may also be worth considering a car loan.

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Running costs

Charging your electric vehicle is never free (unless you have solar panels installed – but even then, you could include the price of the installation and work out a price per kilometre running cost. You need to compare the monthly cost of running an electric car compared to one with an engine. The Electric Vehicle Council has a great calculator that helps estimate your monthly energy costs. Depending on your energy tariff, you could save a substantial sum with an EV.

Car insurance might be higher than what you’re paying now, but it all depends on what car you’re switching from. If you’re going from a car with a similar value and performance specification, the insurance shouldn’t be hugely different. You can potentially save money on servicing costs as electric cars have fewer moving parts and less fluids than conventional cars that need regular services and inspections. With EVs, you just need to keep an eye on consumables like your brakes, bulbs, windscreen wipers and tyres. They do still have things like brake fluid, coolant and windscreen wiper fluid to keep topped up.

Servicing costs for the Hyundai Kona, using the brand’s pre-paid service quote tool, break down like this:


Hyundai Kona Elite (Petrol)

Hyundai Kona Elite (Electric)

Year 1/15,000km



Year 2/30,000km



Year 3/45,000km



Year 4/60,000km



Year 5/75,000km









*Intervals calculated by dividing total by number of services

Your needs

When making the switch to an electric car, you’re still buying a vehicle, so you want to take into account all the other stuff you’d normally do when purchasing one. It helps to make a list of every feature you want from a car. For example, you‘d like 5 seats, a wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control and a boot that will fit your dog. You might break the list down further into needs and wants. That’ll help you narrow down your search for an electric car.

Body style is quite important when it comes to EVs because there isn’t the same selection of vehicles available as there is for fossil-fueled cars. If you’re looking for a ute, there isn’t an electric variant on sale in Australia at the moment (though some are potentially launching in 2022).

More electric vehicles are becoming available, and at a steady rate of roughly one or two models per month. The most common body style available is probably the SUV.  For example, the following are available or coming soon:

  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • Mazda MX-30 Electric
  • Kia Niro Electric S
  • Mercedes-Benz EQA 250
  • MG ZS EV
  • Tesla Model X

Test drive

It’s really important you test drive any car you’re going to buy, but even more so with an electric vehicle. Electric cars tend to have more immediate acceleration and are quieter, thanks to the lack of engine clatter. Often, they have brake regeneration, which reclaims wasted energy to improve efficiency. Brake regen offers a very different driving experience to a standard car, as you won’t need to work the brake pedal as much as you’re used to. Car manufacturers sometimes refer to it as “one-pedal driving”. Most electric cars have an automatic transmission, so that’s something else to consider. That’s why it's important to test out an EV first, to see if you like it. If possible, try to get a weekend test drive.

Do your research

Make sure to read electric car reviews so you can find out if a potential model will suit you. Take time to look around online for recalls (you can find those at the government’s Vehicle Recalls site), as well as what owners are saying on forums. This can help you see if an EV has any common faults or issues.

Ben Gribbin is a car enthusiast and automotive writer at Finder, a global fintech and Australia’s most visited comparison site.

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