The Hyundai Kona Electric offers up to 400 kilometres of range but is twice the price of the conventionally powered Kona.

Electric vehicles were a hot topic at Transition Bridgetown’s recent Power to the People forum with two people, Simon Mathews and Dr Garry Middle, speaking about their experience with electric cars.

Dr Middle lives in Balingup and is the director of environmental consultant service, Vision Environment.

He was recently appointed as environment policy advisor to the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) and works in Perth three days a week.

Last November he decided it was time to do something about his own carbon emissions and “took the plunge” by buying an electric car.

He chose a Hyundai Ioniq, which is priced from $53,363 and has a range of up to 311km.

Balingup is 236 kilometres from his work in Perth. So is range anxiety, that gnawing uncertainty about whether your car can make the distance, a reality?

“Oh shit yeah, definitely!” according to Dr Middle.

“You’ve got 40 kilometres up your sleeve and what happens is the closer you get to Perth the gap between the kilometres you’ve travelled and how much you’ve got in the tank gets smaller and smaller,” he said.

He points out that the faster you go the lower is the energy efficiency of the car, or in other words, you run out of charge quicker.

It’s the opposite situation to an internal combustion engine, where using a higher gear at highway speeds reduces fuel consumption.

Dr Middle reckons the estimated ranges of electric vehicles are pretty accurate in the city but too high for country driving.

The Hyundai Ioniq’s electric stablemate, the Hyundai Kona electric, has an advertised range of 400 kilometres, which should do the 256 kilometres from Bridgetown to Perth comfortably, but most people will baulk at paying over $65,000 for a small SUV. Dr Middle certainly did.

The conventionally powered Kona, by comparison, starts at just $26,490.

Cost barrier

That high purchase price remains one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of electric cars, according to Nigel Malcolm, the CEO of fleet management business, Fleetcare.

He said that more mainstream take-up, especially by governments, with more vehicles going through fleets, would eventually put more affordable electric vehicles on the second-hand market and boost market confidence.

“I think we’re going to see much greater take-up in the commercial area especially, because the cost savings are greater,” he said.

Another problem is the uncertainty of resale values.

Leasing vehicles, rather than buying them, can make a big difference to the affordability of electric vehicles.

Leasing and other finance options can reduce the problems of the up-front cost and uncertain residual value with a guaranteed valuation when the vehicle’s handed back, as long as it’s within the agreed number of kilometres, Mr Malcolm said.

Servicing and “fuel” costs are lower with electric vehicles, in fact with solar panels the “fuel” is essentially free.

But despite that, the whole of life costs still makes owning an electric car “not a sensible decision” from a purely financial perspective, though it can make social and environmental sense, Mr Malcolm said.

Low carbon

There’s no doubt that electric cars can have a very big impact on reducing carbon emissions and global warming.

Dr Middle said research showed that while the average internal combustion engine vehicle emitted 224 grams of CO2/km, an electric car recharging on solar PVs emits just 8 grams of CO2/km.

When plugged into WA’s electricity grid, with its combination of fossil fuels and renewables, Dr Middle reckons his Hyundai Ioniq still produces roughly half the emissions of a conventional car.

“If I drive 30,000km a year, this is a reduction of 3.03 tonnes of CO2. This makes good environmental sense,” Dr Middle said.

With his savings on fuel and servicing costs he reckons the payback period on his Hyundai Ioniq will be six years and 10 months, “which is not too bad.”


Disclosure: Mark Schneider has a commercial agreement with Fleetcare to write copy for them.