Quick Stats

  • There are over 3 million electric cars operating globally
  • Electric car sales increased 67% from 2016 to 2017 in Australia
  • Electric vehicles make up only 0.2% of the total vehicle fleet in Australia
  • Australia has one of the lowest rates of electric car ownership in the OECD 
  • Over 80% of the available electrics car models are over $60,000

Historical Data

Since the introduction of the first electric car, the General Motors EV1, in 1996, electric cars have seen tremendous technological advances and a rise in popularity. The first viable electric car became available for purchase in 2008 with Tesla Motors. The Roadster was an all electric vehicle using lithium-ion battery cells. Electric car sales in Australia only started to gain traction from 2011 onwards coinciding with electric car model availability.

2018 saw a big year for electric car sales within Australia, with 1352 cars registered for the year. This however, only makes up 0.3% of total car sales within Australia in 2018. Unfortunately Tesla do not release their official sales number making it hard to predict just how many Tesla cars are sold in Australia and the combined total of electric car sales.

Number of vehicles sold in Australia

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Total vehicles sold vs the total number of EV's sold in Australia

Year Total Vehicals Sold Total Number of EV's Sold % of EV's Sold
2011 1,008,437 49 0.004%
2012 1,112,030 253 0.023%
2013 1,136,227 293 0.026%
2014 1,113,224 1322 0.12%
2015 1,155,408 1771 0.15%
2016 1,178,133 1369 0.12%
2017 1,189,116 2287 0.19%

By state

Victoria has the highest numbers of electric car ownership across the country with 1324 vehicles bought from 2011-2017, closely followed by NSW with 1,238 vehicles in the same time period.

However when looking at the data from a market size perspective, the ACT and South Australia leads with 21 electric cars per 10,000 vehicles sold. Given the varying populations of each state, electric vehicle sales per 10,000 vehicles gives the best representation for which states are adopting electric vehicle technology.

Electric vehicle sales (per 10,000 vehicles)

NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS NT ACT
10 9 7 21 8 3 1 21

International comparisons

Australia ranks very low internationally when comparing the total percentage that electric cars make up of total cars on the road. The three main factors that influence electric vehicle uptake in a country are consumer demand, pricing and incentives put in place by the countries government.

When it comes to the percentage that electric vehicles make up of the total vehicle fleet in Australia, the results have been underwhelming compared to global leaders such as Norway and the USA. Of the 36 OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, 32 of them have higher sales rates for electric vehicles than Australia. The only countries with lower electric vehicles sales rates were Mexico, Chile and Turkey which are classified as emerging economies4.

Total percentage of electric cars on the road

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For new car sales Australia ranks only slightly better with just 0.3% of new vehicles being electric vehicles.

Total percentage of new electric vehicles sales

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Why Australia is lagging behind

Lack of incentives

The slow adoption of electric vehicles in Australia could be attributed to the lack of Government policies and monetary incentives rolled out in comparison to other countries. 30.9% of respondents in a consumer survey undertaken in 2018 said that they would be more willing to purchase an electric vehicle if there was more support, incentives and infrastructure in place.

Countries such as Norway that offer both financial and non-financial incentives for electric vehicle purchasing and maintenance have high rates of electric vehicle uptake.

Laws and regulations

Australian Parliament passed new regulations in December 2018 regarding the importation of vehicles Australia that will come into effect in December 2019 and will likely see more electric cars on Australian roads from 2020 onwards. The have made changes to the previous criteria for importing cars via the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS). Now the only criteria are that the cars to be imported can not have been on sale in Australia, have been on sale for more than three months overseas and that the cars offer an ‘environmental performance significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia’.

Lack of support

Infrastructure Australia identified a lack of charging stations as a significant barrier to wider adoption of electric vehicles in Australia(5). Charging station adoption throughout the country is necessary in order to increase the range electric vehicles are able to travel around Australia.

In 2018 there were 783 charging locations available, equating to roughly one charging station for every six electric vehicles.

Number of charging stations by state

NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS NT ACT
161 216 162 76 122 21 5 20

Price points

For new car sales Australia ranks only slightly better with just 0.3% of new vehicles being electric vehicles.

With the lack of monetary incentives for the public looking to purchase an electric car, the price point on the available models can act as a barrier to average Australians. It is the higher priced electric cars that are showing the greatest growth in the Australian market, indicating that people are primarily interested in electric vehicles as luxury vehicles. 19 of the 23 available electric models are priced at over $60,000, when the average car cost in Australia is $27,9943. 35.5% of respondents in a consumer survey undertaken in 2018 said they would be willing to buy an electric vehicle if they were the same price as petrol or diesel options.

A second-hand electric car market has yet to emerge, but with electric car sales on the rise, the second-hand car sales market should rise with it. Once a second-hand electric car market is established, pricing will act as less of a barrier for electric car sales in Australia.

Models available

Another contributing factor could also be the lack of vehicle models available in Australia. There are a number of new models soon to become available within Australia which could potentially see electric vehicle ownership increase.

From 2018 there are 9 new models of electric cars planned for release:

  • Audi Q7 e-tron - early 2018 
  • Hyundai Kona - 2018/19 
  • Hyundai Ioniq PHEV - end of 2018 
  • Hyundai Ioniq BEV - end of 2018 
  • Jaguar I-PACE - 2018 
  • Mercedes-Benz - 2018/19 
  • Nissan LEAF Gen3 - end of 2018 
  • Range Rover Sport P400e - end of 2018 
  • Tesla Model 3 - 2018/19

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