Charging for Electric Vehicles

4 Minute Read
1 September 2021

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Let’s take a look at the financial and environmental costs of burning fuel to power our cars.

For over one hundred years, cars have been powered by internal combustion engines burning petrol or diesel fuel. Today, we can power our cars using the energy of the sun captured from solar panels. In time, this will become as commonplace as plugging your mobile phone in to charge at night.

It’s broadly recognised that society must urgently reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. These fuels, such as coal and crude oil, contain carbon. When they burn, carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, a major contributor to the greenhouse effect1. Burning one litre of petrol releases 2.31kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere2.

In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that there were 19.77 million cars on Australian roads that consumed a total of 33,019 megalitres or 33.02 billion litres of fuel (equating to over 13,200 Olympic swimming pools)3.

Based on this level of fuel consumption, CO2 emissions from road transportation totaled at least 76 million tonnes in 2020—not taking into account the fact that commercial buses and trucks run on diesel fuel, which has even higher emissions.

For every vehicle on the road, that adds up to almost four tonnes (3.86) of emissions per year.

The ABS also report that Australian motorists drive an average of 12,100km per year, or 33km per day3. In terms of financial costs, reports show each motorist spends an average of $1800–$2200 per year on fuel.

Sample yearly petrol cost for an Australian motorist

The fuel-free alternative

An electric car can be driven using nothing but the power of the sun. Using a residential solar power system, solar energy can be transferred directly from a roofs panels to an electric car’s battery. No petrol stations, no oil refineries and no carbon emissions.

It’s a logical way forward for many motorists, and the technology is not only here now, it's commercially available. Currently, 2.9 million Australian households (30%) have rooftop solar panels. The only barrier to entry remains the relatively higher upfront cost of purchasing an EV4.

Thanks to advances in battery technology, it’s estimated that EVs will retail for a similar price to petrol-driven vehicles within the next five to eight years. Yet for now, when considering an EV in 2021, buyers need to factor the ongoing savings of being able to drive petrol-free into the equation.

The most expensive possible scenario for an electric-car-owner is having to recharge using electricity from the grid. So, let’s start there:

Charging an EV with Grid Sourced electricity

This estimated annual savings of $1339.71 may likely be higher, as typically EV drivers charge their cars overnight, with an off-peak time of use energy plan. And for EV drivers with solar systems, the annual electricity costs of charging would be much lower still. If charged during sunny periods, it’s possible to charge and drive an electric vehicle with no actual fuel or electricity costs whatsoever.

Over a ten-year period, fuel savings of potentially $10,000–$15,000 may be realistic for many EV owners.

On top of this, EVs have far fewer moving parts than petrol or diesel driven internal combustion engines. This means that servicing costs and future repair costs associated with long-term EV ownership are much less than with conventional fuel driven cars. With an EV, there is no exhaust system, no starter motor, no fuel injection system and no radiator.

If considering an EV for your next purchase, an online calculator can help you understand the potential savings based on your driving habits.

*State averages are based on current and reliable data.
^Estimated savings is based on assumptions of a fuel economy of 10.8 litres per 100 kilometres for a comparable petrol car. Kilometres driven, electricity costs, and petrol costs used to calculate savings are based upon either the average power and fuel costs selected, or custom costs input. This is an estimate only and actual savings will vary depending on each customer’s individual circumstances.