The Australian EV market has been a surprisingly slow market. This could be due to several factors, including a limited choice of models and the price of EVs in a market with limited incentives (unlike the awesome incentives we see in Norway).
“Electric vehicles are still small in number, less than 0.1 per cent of the fleet. The 14,253 electric vehicles registered in 2020 is almost double the previous year,” said Sarah Kiely, Director of the Australian Bureau o f Statistics (ABS) Transport Statistics.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 19.8 million registered vehicles in Australia as at the 31st of January 2020. Diesel-powered vehicles make up 25.6 per cent of the national fleet. Petrol-powered vehicles in 2020 account for 72.7 per cent of the fleet, down from 73.6 per cent in 2019.
Toyota continues to hold the top spot as the most popular vehicle make registered in Australia. Toyota remains a popular brand in many markets, including in many African countries. The Toyota Hilux is South Africa’s top selling vehicle. This is why it is important to see Toyota-branded all-electric vehicles starting to come out, such as the Toyota Proace Van. But right now the electric vehicle is driven by Tesla.
Tesla Taxi Australia is helping Australians drive electric. Its business model wants to achieve this in two ways:
- By helping people who own Tesla cars rent them out “by the day” to cover part or all of the cost to buy and run the cars. This will enable more people to afford to buy Teslas. In some cases, people could be in a position to buy a couple of Teslas, knowing that they can offset some or in some cases all of their car payments from renting out their Teslas on the platform.
- Giving people who don’t own EVs the ability to drive EVs via this car rental/car sharing platform.
Their fleet includes the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, Model 3 Performance, and also some Model Xs. In the long run, Tesla Taxi AU’s goal is to build a fleet of autonomous cars that can be used by the public (like a taxi/Uber) and also by the “owners” as needed, says Millin Bear, Lead Developer at Tesla Taxi AU.
“From 2021 we intend to open a version of ‘TeslaTaxi’ in the US, Canada and the UK. We want our systems to be tested and proven in our local market, then move to new markets. In the long term, we hope that the cars will have FSD and be autonomous. At that time, ‘TeslaTaxi’ may still have a place for people that want to book a car for days (not just a trip) and we hope to have a fleet size that can support a subscription service where owners can join, buy a car and portion of a 2MW PV solar farm, and use unlimited free transport in the fleet plus take a small cut from any net profits that the fleet generate from ‘robo-taxi’ jobs when not in use by the owners of the group-fleet.”
After a year of operations, some of their vehicles have done about 35,000 km. Not all of the km are from rentals, as some are from the early days of the platform when they had to drive the cars from their Brisbane base in QLD to NSW/VIC/ACT/SA to fill rental demand as needed in those states. They have since added more vehicles from owners in other locations to the platform. This has enabled them to fulfill rental requests from more parts of the country.
“We are not aiming to be like ‘Air-B&B’ and let owners set lower and lower pricing to get bookings, we have set the pricing to allow owners to cover costs with about 50% rented days, this is designed to help an owner move from owning one car up to buying 2~4x cars (having the rental income cover costs),” says Milin. “This system works by giving the first person in a location that joins our group the ‘first right of refusal’ on any rental request for that location”
Here is a video showing some pickup instructions after booking a Tesla Taxi:
On how the service has been received up to now, Milin says, “As of today, we have received more than 1,400 rental requests. We only started our marketing in Q4 2019, so this means around 2,800 per year at the current rate. However, this will ramp up soon, as we now have car owners in many more locations. Our requests per week hit an average of 60 requests pre Covid and dropped to under 15 per week for 12 weeks and are now back up to 40 per week (for the past 3 weeks).
“Not all requests convert into a booking, as we may not have a car to fill the booking (it its location) &/or the request may be for 1 day and the owner in that location may have a 2-day or 7-day min booking set. The conversion rate will get better with time, as more owners are added to meet demand.”
Tesla Taxi AU has about 90 owners on its platform but only about 20 cars are “active” right now and taking rental bookings. Current demand would probably support 30 cars at this time. Their aim is for an active fleet of more than 200 cars by Q3 2021. Tesla Taxi AU says that 80% of the people who rent are also looking to buy a Tesla and they are mostly between 35 and 60 years old. About 70% of the people who rent the cars are doctors, dentists, and IT professionals. “90% of the rentals I have approved on my cars have been 2 days (Model 3 SR+ at $440-AUD total for 2 days) and 7 days.”
There is a bond of $900 that is paid by the renter that is refunded at the end of the rental or used to cover the insurance excess should there be a claim. The rentals offer very good value as compared to renting a similar ICE vehicle. For a BMW 330i or similar, the rentals can be around A$300, whereas a Model 3 Standard Range Plus is around A$219 for one day, depending on how busy it is.
Australia has been one of the world leaders on the home solar front, with over 2 million homes having installed solar. That’s a lot of clean electricity to charge EVs. Although about 60% of Australia’s electricity still comes from coal, the home solar and the commercial & industrial solar installations help. TeslaTaxi also has an emissions offset program in which they pay Greenfleet to offset the emissions from the grid. They buy at 1:1 for each km for rented distance in a Tesla rental as if it was a Holden Captiva (i.e., for every 20,000 km their renters drive, they buy 20,0000 km offsets for a mid-sized ICE car).
Images courtesy of Tesla Taxi AU
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