Electric Cars Reach 20% Penetration in the Australian Capital Territory

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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home of Canberra, the nation’s capital, has the highest rate of EV ownership per capita in the country. It is similar to that of California in the USA. At the end of 2023, over 20% of new cars registered in Canberra were EVs. The adoption of electric vehicles in Australia’s capital is double the national average, with over 8,000 battery EVs registered there. Ann and Peter Robinson recently gave me a summary of the EV sales story in the Australian Capital Territory, leading to this article for all of you.

Australian Capital Territory
Tesla Cybertruck visits Australian Capital Territory. Photo courtesy of Peter and Ann Robinson.

It is impossible to drive around Canberra without seeing numerous BEVs. Teslas are by far the most prolific. The number of BYDs are increasing, with three BEV models now on offer. Ann tells me: “I’ve seen the occasional MG, Volvo, Kia, and Cupra Born. Recent petrol price hikes are fuelling the uptake.”

Cupra decided to launch the Born at the Arboretum in Canberra due to its progressive EV uptake. “It was a real feather in our cap given that most new car launches occur in Sydney or Melbourne.” Ann and Peter went on to purchase their own Cupra Born. You can read about it here.

Australian Capital Territory
Compared to their Cupra Born, Peter and Ann thought the Cybertruck was ugly. Photo courtesy of Peter and Ann Robinson.

I asked Ann what she saw as the factors leading to such a high penetration of EVs.

“According to the Clean Energy Regulator, by early 2024 there were over 57,000 home solar systems installed and nearly 4000 solar system and battery combination installations in the ACT. Solar systems are generously subsidized, and whilst battery rebates ended when the ACT reached its 5000 battery limit, they are still eligible for an interest free loan through the Sustainable Household Scheme. There is a A$15,000 limit to the loan per household which can be used for multiple eligible items.” Including buying an electric car!

“The ownership of a solar system makes owning an EV even more appealing. We already owned a 10kW solar system and installed a 3-phase 22kW Wallbox charger which cost about A$3800. However, quite a few people just use a ‘granny’ charging cable plugged into the 240V 10amp power point. This is sufficient for charging if your daily commute is within Canberra. Charging can be done during sunny days utilizing solar power or overnight using off-peak electricity to minimize running costs.” Electricity currently costs around 30 cents a kWh when purchased from the grid. Prices vary.

Ann continues: “The ACT government gives generous incentives to make EV ownership more attractive and affordable. A A$15,000 interest-free loan with no account fees is available through its Sustainable Household Scheme, repayable over 10 years. On top of this there is 2 years free registration and a stamp duty exemption. Stamp duty saved is A$1800 for an EV costing A$60,000. Registration fees are normally A$850 for 2 years. However, all other fees still apply. The incentives apply to both new and used EVs. Vehicles must have been purchased after 24 May 2021 to qualify, owners must hold an ACT driver’s license, and the vehicle must be garaged in the ACT.”

Ann details the plans and achievements of the ACT government: “In 2016 the ACT government committed to 100% renewable energy by 2020. This was achieved by construction of solar farms within the ACT and purchasing electricity from renewables situated outside the ACT. The Australian Capital Territory is surrounded by New South Wales. This strange situation is explained by the historical rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney — so the ACT was situated halfway in between.

“The ACT government has committed to net zero emissions and to transition away from fossil fuel gas by 2045.

“The ACT government is assisting local strata owners and managers with a Residential Strata EV Ready Pilot Study which will help identify what a strata building needs to become EV ready. The biggest challenge for these buildings is the electrical infrastructure, as most don’t have the spare capacity to supply charging stations. Upgrades to existing buildings are costly and time consuming.” You can read more about it here.

“The local ACT Legislative Assembly wants to make Canberra a leader in electric technologies and are currently negotiating with the federal government to set up a new center of excellence. The A$24 million promised to the ACT would largely be used to expand Canberra Institute of Technology’s EV training center to train more EV automotive technicians. Expanding the training offered makes sense, as apparently Tesla apprentices nationwide fly into the ACT to undertake training at CIT. Apparently, course placements for EV automotive technicians are full with hundreds waitlisted.”

In another leadership move, the ACT is pioneering changes to vehicle registration charges. “From 1 July 2024, vehicle registration fees will gradually transition from the current weight-based vehicle registration system to an emissions-based system for most light vehicles.

“This means lower registration fees for lower-emissions vehicles, including:

  • zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs)
  • plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)
  • hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)
  • low-emission petrol and diesel vehicles.

“It is estimated that most private passenger vehicles (96%) will have the same registration cost or lower under the new registration system, when introduced.” 

It will be interesting to see if this effects how other states and territories in Australia calculate registration fees. In Queensland, for example, it is based on the number of cylinders in the engine. So, we have the ridiculous situation with our Tesla being registered as a four-cylinder car, even though it has the power and weight of a V8.

The Cybertruck continues its tour of Australia and is now on display in Canberra. I asked Peter and Ann to drop in for a visit and let me know of their experience. “Hi David, we stopped in at the Tesla dealership today and we had an enjoyable talk with the staff. When I asked to test the window with a cricket ball, the salesman said ‘sure’, with a smile. Looks like the Cybertruck won’t be for sale in Australia any time soon, as it will need to comply with local safety regulations. The interior was typically Tesla minimalist but the bucket seats were imposing. We visited on the second day of its arrival in the morning, so there weren’t any other people around. The Cybertruck was literally squeezed through the showroom roller door with mirrors in. The security was set to Sentry Mode with signs on the windows stating that. So no one was allowed to open doors or sit inside. There wasn’t enough room to stand far enough back to get a full photo of the Cybertruck, let alone throw a cricket ball at the window. As we left, more people arrived to see the Cybertruck.”

Australian Capital Territory
Won’t ruin your weekend, will tow your boat. Photo courtesy of Peter and Ann Robinson.

With the nation’s capital moving rapidly to EVs and renewable energy, I would hope that this would make an impact on the conservative politicians who meet there in the national parliament. If they see a Cybertruck, maybe they will believe there is such a thing as an electric ute, and it won’t ruin their weekend.


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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 762 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth