The complexity of the calculations behind electric vehicle efficacy is highlighted by a recent report from CHOICE magazine. CHOICE is highly regarded in Australia for giving excellent advice to consumers regarding product purchase. However, I took issue with what I felt were poorly made assumptions underpinning their advice to consumers. Check out their report on EVs here.
After I left my feedback, what followed was a frank and open conversation with Peter Giles, Product Innovation Manager at CHOICE. The article is an exploration of that conversation and is published with the permission of CHOICE.
CHOICE, Peter Giles: “Just to clarify – I work on a team who look for new ways to engage our audience. We did some research interviewing a lot of EV owners and also people intending to buy an EV soon. We found that those people intending to buy an EV wanted more information on running costs, range, charging and batteries. They also said they wanted a simple guide that provided clear and concise information to help them research the area. We created a quick start EV guide as an online guide to help them with their research. This is not really a report as such, just an attempt to condense the information into an easily accessible guide.
“Also bear in mind that the EV guide is a prototype we’ve just launched and we’re still gathering user feedback — and will look to update it based on that.”
Let’s have a look at CHOICE‘s analysis. First up are running costs. CHOICE compares a Corolla petrol sedan with an MG ZS EV. That’s not a fair comparison.
CHOICE: “[A] Camry benchmarked against a Model 3 might be a good way to go. It was difficult to choose the EV to benchmark — originally we looked at the Hyundai Kona that has a hybrid, petrol and EV model — but the hybrid is not on sale in Australia.
“We went with the MG because it sold well and is affordable but I take your point that so far the Tesla Model 3 is by far the biggest seller of any EV in Australia – I think a Toyota Camry would probably be the most similar equivalent sedan in hybrid and petrol variants. We’ve also had some feedback that maybe we should have benchmarked against a larger SUV like a RAV4 — maybe once the Model Y has caught on we could do this (and I’m sure it would look a lot more favorable for the EV’s).”
Next: Petrol costs are assumed to be 4 times the cost of electricity. I pay 13¢ a kWh at best and 24¢ at worst. CHOICE assumes a cost of 30¢ a kWh. Petrol today is $1.80 per litre. Petrol can be up to 8 times the cost of electricity.
CHOICE: “With electricity prices we generally work with 30¢/kWh — once you take into account supply charges etc it can average about this — depending of course when you use the car. If you paid to charge at a fast charging station it would be more. Electricity prices are currently rising.”
The other assumption I questioned was that they are expecting you to pay the same amount to maintain an EV as you would a petrol car — allocating about $300 per year for servicing.
CHOICE: “Point taken on maintenance costs — if you have any better data sources than EVENERGI (who provide back end data for NRMA and EV Council site I’d appreciate any recommendations — we’ve been using their data for the benchmarked vehicles.
“I think our choice of cars may also have influenced this as Toyota’s are pretty cheap to maintain (compared to a Mercedes for example). Apparently the Electric vehicle council estimates that petrol cars cost about 7¢ per km in servicing costs whereas EV’s about 2¢ per km in comparison. Do you think this would be a fairer comparison for us to use? From my understanding EV’s cost a bit more for tyres as they are heavier.”
The information on charging speeds and times seems reasonably accurate. However, I queried that charging was from 0% to 80%. Most EV drivers don’t let their car run down to zero before plugging in.
CHOICE: “Thanks for your point on charging times — on our driving range tool we’ve actually estimated 20–80% charging so maybe for consistency we should update the estimates on the landing page — I’ll look at updating this on your suggestion.”
Then we come to environmental impact, where the report shows in a graph that an electric car charging from the current NSW grid produces more carbon dioxide that a hybrid car running on petrol alone. A quick check of the NSW grid shows that it is running on 40% solar at the moment. So these figures cannot possibly be true.
The Australian grid is greening at a rapid rate, and this needs to be taken into account.
CHOICE: “Finally with CO2 output we’ve calculated this based on NSW grid (similar to QLD and VIC) — approx 70% from coal power currently according to National Energy and Greenhouse Reporting — 2021 However our modeling does take into account the growth of renewables over the next 5 years — a reduction of about 10% emissions per year in NSW. We included the solar section to underline the big cost advantages if you’re able to generate your own renewable energy (and charge during the day).”
CHOICE goes on to point out that an EV battery has a warranty of 8 years and should be cheaper to replace when that time is up. The assumption is that an EV battery will hit 100% degradation during its warranty period. This sort of comment may perpetuate the belief that EV batteries need to be replaced frequently.
CHOICE: “We generally point out the time that EV batteries are under warranty for — we don’t intend to suggest that will need to be replaced in 8 years but that battery costs will be significantly lower by then.”
It is great to see a magazine with the quality reputation of CHOICE producing advice to those wanting to “make the switch.” I really appreciated the opportunity to engage with them in a frank and informative conversation. They are seeking feedback, what do you think?
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