When Is It The Right Time To Buy An Electric Car?

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Now? Or never? A whole range of answers come forth when you ask the question “When is it the right time to buy an electric car?”

I recently spoke with a young man who is keen to go electric. He is currently driving an old Honda Accord and it finally broke down. Yes, he’s exulted. His wife does the accounts for their small business and she agreed that now might be the right time to go electric. The next time he had a few minutes, though, he thought, “let’s have a look under the hood.” Sadly, he found the problem and fixed it. The Honda is good for a few more kilometres. His accountant wife now says, “Sorry, we don’t need a new electric vehicle.” There is a moral to this story.

The young man must ask, “Will I wait till my current vehicle dies before it is the right time to buy an electric car?”

My neighbour drives a small SUV, also a Honda. He uses it for his business making and delivering bird boxes. As such, it needs to tow about a ton of timber, but it also has to be luxurious enough for the family to take it on holidays. He is waiting for the right vehicle to come along. In Australia. There are no models that meet his needs.

My neighbour must ask, “Will I wait until the right vehicle comes along before going electric?”

What about charging infrastructure? Unless you drive an electric car, you don’t understand how easy it is to charge, especially at home. Granted, there is still a need for charging problem solving on long trips, due to gaps in the fast charging network.  Perception is not helped by the fact that there are no large neon signs advertising the locations of chargers.

Charging infrastructure rollout is not helped when public figures dispute the value of putting level 2 chargers at suburban railway station car parks with the comment “It is inequitable! It punishes people who can’t afford an electric car!”

People must ask, “Will I wait until there is a supercharger on the corner of every suburban street before I go electric? Will that be the right time to buy an electric vehicle?”

January and February figures for EV penetration in Australia hit approximately 7% of new car sales. I am told that 6% is the takeoff point for new technology. Although Australia is a long way behind Europe and China, we are still moving into the sweet spot of the disruption curve. The tenth ship full of Teslas for 2023 arrived today.

More and more models are arriving in Australia as well. The SEAT Cupra Born has just launched, the Volkswagen ID.4 is waiting in the wings, the ORA Cat will launch this weekend at Fully Charged Sydney, and we will soon see the BYD Dolphin in showrooms. Even a Fiat 500e has been spotted on Australia’s roads. We will be spoilt for choice with sedans! Bring on the utes!!

It is hoped that at least one of these sedan models will sell in the low $40,000 range, rivalling the price of a hybrid Toyota Corolla.

Within 3 years, electric cars will be coming off lease. These may be cheaper and therefore be available for those who cannot afford a new car — petrol, diesel, or electric.

“Will I wait until EVs achieve price parity with ICE versions? Will that be the right time to buy an electric car?”

Some feel that electric car technology is unproven. They fear thermal runaway in the battery, or being stranded in the middle of nowhere if their tech fails. There are already electric vehicles in the USA, Europe, and China that have achieved comparable longevity to fossil fuelled cars. The batteries are lasting longer than expected. Some recyclers are worried that they might not have enough stock!

“Will I wait till many EVs achieve 200,000 km in Australian conditions before I buy an electric car? Will that be the right time?”

Australian drivers are noticing the Teslas, the BYD Atto 3’s, the MG ZS EVs, and the Polestar 2’s on the roads and taking note. Even Queensland peak motoring body RACQ is starting to give cautious yet positive advice about going electric. Watch the video here.

“RACQ has hosted its first-ever electric vehicle video panel, busting the myths and setting the record straight on everything Queenslanders want to know about the transition to EVs. As one of Australia’s largest motoring clubs, we know there is some scepticism about whether electric cars will really take off here. We are, after all, the unofficial capital of the SUV and ute!

“RACQ is not on an EV crusade, We just want to give you the facts for when you’re making your next vehicle purchase. They do, after all, say knowledge is power.”

Not on a crusade — RACQ is being careful not to alienate its conservative, fossil fuel customer base.

“Will I wait until I am surrounded by electric cars at the traffic lights before I buy an EV? I don’t want to stand out in a crowd.” (This is the comment I have had made to me by people who say they will never buy a Tesla!)

For my wife and I, it was a combination of the right vehicle at the right time. Our Hyundai Sonata V6 was getting long in the tooth (240,000 km long) and was costing more and more to maintain. But we had ordered a Tesla Model 3 and were willing to wait the three and half years for it to be delivered. The right time, and the right car — a singularity if you will.

Buy an electric car
Transport changes from rail to petrol to electric. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Some of my friends, neighbours, and even acquaintances think I advocate the throwing away of an ICE vehicle in reasonable condition, in a move to electric. I don’t. Get your money’s worth. Then move on.

However, there are and always will be those who will never move to electric — and that’s OK. There will be petrol-driven grey Corollas on the road for some time (helped by the fact that they have three spare cars in the backyard for parts). So, the answer for that person will be, “never.”

All I am asking is that when you purchase a replacement vehicle that you consider electric. In the words of Mitsubishi, “Please Consider.” Do your research — start with you own teenage children! They know a lot. The EV landscape is changing rapidly. New models are being introduced, the charging network is expanding rapidly, technology is reaching new milestones.

When is the right time to buy an electric car? It depends.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 750 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth