Driving sustainably: The easy, affordable shift to electric vehicles

7 March 2024

  • During the first half of 2023, just over eight1 per cent of all new cars being sold in showrooms across Australia were electric. That might not sound like much but it represents a 120 per cent increase on the number sold in the previous year.
  • Drivers in the country’s capital are leading the EV revolution with 21.8 1 per cent of all new cars bought in the ACT this year being electric. And research suggests more than half of us would consider buying an EV for our next car, with current bestsellers being the Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3 and BYD’s ATTO 3.2
  • If you want to go electric, there are some impressive cost savings on offer and plenty of environmental benefits, too. Try CommBank’s new EV Cost Calculator.

I’ve found myself parked at Triabunna Takeaway, about an hour outside of Hobart/nipaluna, my final destination in a three-day electric vehicle (EV) road trip around Tasmania/lutruwita. The flat-roofed blue building appears wholly unchanged since the 1980s – which is how you know you’re about to have the best sausage roll of your life – and looks about as likely to house an EV charging station as my octogenarian grandparents’ carport.

But looking at the map on my Tesla’s dash display, I can see it marked clearly. So I pull around the back of the building where I find – to my delight – a shiny new charging point. And I’m once again happily surprised at how easy it’s been switching from a petrol car to the increasingly popular choice of getting from A-to-B, and everywhere else, in an EV.

Range relaxation

Just a couple of years ago, all anyone spoke about when it came to the EV- switch was something called “range anxiety” – basically, the fear of running out of battery power before reaching a charging station – but I’m happy to report that it’s a thing of the past. And I now know why: there are charging stations all over the place. That and EVs generally do the legwork for you by mapping out range and the next available plug-in points, ensuring you never get caught out.

According to Thara Philip, an e-mobility doctorate researcher at the University of Queensland, Australians are getting more and more relaxed about EV-driving thanks to an increase in awareness of the vehicles and their capabilities, significant improvements in average range (newer EVs have an average range of about 400 kilometres) and the fact that public charging infrastructure is improving by the day. “We now have some 2500 public charging stations across Australia, of which 560 are rapid chargers.” All of which means getting caught out really is a thing of the past.

1 in 6 customers financing a new car with CBA now chooses an EV*

Plotting your route

Sydney writer Lana Hirschowitz recently completed a number of road trips with her husband in their Tesla, including two between Sydney and Cabarita Beach – an 800-kilometre drive. Before leaving, they planned by destination and took into consideration accessibility of charging stations and comfort, too. “We split the drive over two days,” says Lana, who switched to an EV two years ago because of petrol’s financial and environmental cost. “And we charged twice each day, which only takes about 30 minutes if you find a rapid charger – it’s enough time to stretch your legs and have coffee.”

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t be spontaneous when road tripping in an EV. Take the road less travelled but with information up your sleeve. There are a number of apps available to help plan the perfect Aussie EV road trip, including the free PlugShare app, which allows users to enter the make and model of their vehicle in order to find the best way to split up their charging stops. It also shows where and what type of chargers are available nearby, making the process stress-free.

Financial and environmental benefits

“I love the EV,” says Lana. “I love how it handles the road and I feel like I’m saving the planet. We were looking at flying overseas but I felt awful about the carbon footprint so we stayed in Australia and drove our electric car.”

Independent think tank Beyond Zero Emissions estimates that a shift to EVs for urban travel would eliminate six per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions; eight per cent if regional travel is included. As well as saving on carbon footprint, there can be financial benefits. Australian Bureau of Statistics data has the average passenger vehicle consuming about 11.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, meaning a round trip from Sydney to Cabarita Beach would be more than $300 at today’s fuel prices.

While cautioning that the figures are dependent on movable factors, Philip points to research from the University of Queensland weighing up the savings available to Australian EV owners. “In an analysis done in 2023 we saw that there’s a saving of at least $900 per year when always using fast chargers,” she says. “When the charge is done at home, those savings are even greater.”

Pay less getting from A to B

The cost of charging an EV is cheaper than filling your tank with petrol or diesel, despite rising utility prices. For example, fully charging a 65kWh electric Hyundai Kona overnight costs about $20. The cost of filling the petrol tank? Closer to $90. Another cost saving: EV models don’t need servicing as often because they don’t have an engine, gearbox, spark plugs and exhaust systems – so there are fewer things to go wrong.

Upfront savings

Until now EV prices have been higher than equivalent petrol or diesel versions but prices are falling as more players enter the market. Most state and territory governments across Australia also offer incentives to help ensure the next car you buy isn’t a gas guzzler. Rebates help bring down the purchase price and so do discounts on stamp duty and registration fees. The Australian Government also offers a fringe benefits tax exemption if you buy an EV by salary sacrificing.

More affordable financing

Unlocking a lower interest rate to buy your EV is another spoil of making the switch. CommBank offers personal loan discounts for customers who want to invest in an electric or hybrid car – and is also a preferred finance provider for Tesla Australia. The CommBank electric vehicle loan covers the cost of the vehicle, charging station and batteries.

The planet will thank you

When something is as helpful for your household budget as the planet, you know it’s good. Transport is the third-largest source of greenhouse gases in Australia. The principle environmental benefit is that EVs don’t produce the CO2 or nitrogen dioxide that petrol cars do, which creates pollution and adds to global warming. A medium-sized EV creates about a third of the CO2 as its petrol counterpart. And many EVs are built from more recyclable materials. Happy, quiet driving. 

EV cost calculator

Want to know how much money driving an EV could save you? CommBank’s new EV Cost Calculator shows the differences in cost of ownership so you can make an informed pick. Compare vehicle costs as well as fuel/charging and other running costs. Even better: get an estimate of what the CO2 reduction could be with an EV compared with the selected internal-combustion engine vehicle.

Get started

Switching to an EV?

If you’re switching to an EV, you could get a secured personal loan to help support your transition. Available for eligible electric and hybrid vehicle purchases3, these lower-rate loans can cover upfront needs, from the EV to charging stations and batteries. Terms, conditions and eligibility criteria apply.

Plug in to our lowest rate

Go electric and enjoy a discounted rate on our Personal Loans for eligible electric or hybrid vehicles.3

Things you should know

1 Source: Electric Vehicle Council - https://electricvehiclecouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/State-of-EVs_July-2023_.pdf

2 Source: Electric Vehicle Council - https://electricvehiclecouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-EVC-carsales-Consumer-attitudes-survey-web.pdf

* Source: Commonwealth Bank of Australia - https://www.commbank.com.au/personal-loans/latest/electric-vehicle-loan.html

3 Eligible vehicles must be fully electric, or hybrids emitting less than 120g C02 emissions per kilometre. If you're using the car as security it must be no more than seven years old, not currently under finance and have an active comprehensive insurance policy. The comprehensive insurance policy must be organised prior to loan funding.

An earlier version of this article was published in Brighter magazine

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.