The Future of Electric Cars in Australia The Adopters Part 1

I am currently writing a book on the future of electric cars in Australia with a couple of collaborators. I am going to explore a few issues here on this blog. The first of these is the adopter groups which I will explore one by one. I start with a bit of a polemic on some of the early adopters

Part 2 on early adopters can be read HERE

With apologies to the originators of the technology adoption curve, the adopters of electric cars in Australia fall into several categories that we think will influence the overall adoption scenarios.

The Very Early Adopters

I have deliberately avoided calling these people innovators because they are a grab bag of people who have purchased the relatively small number of electric vehicles that are currently on Australian roads. These subgroups are:

· Genuine innovators who have purchased electric vehicles when they were hard to get and hard to drive and charge.

· People with significant amounts of discretionary funds who are attracted to vehicles like the high-end Teslas.

· People who can afford to buy an electric vehicle even though it is far more expensive than a fossil fuel car and wish to use it as a status symbol for their green credentials.

Due to the work I am involved in and the circles that I move in, and despite the relatively low numbers of pure electric vehicles in Australia I personally know people in each of these categories.

As a general principle I believe that people are free to spend their own money as they wish. However, I really struggle with those people that buy a high-end electric vehicle to burnish their environmental credentials and brag about it. According to the National Transport Commission, in 2017 the national average carbon dioxide emissions intensity from new passenger and light commercial vehicles was 181.7 g/km. So assuming that a vehicle was driven 15,000 kilometres the carbon emissions would be 2,725 Kg of carbon dioxide. So assuming that the electric vehicle was charged 100% with renewable energy that would be the saving. This is of course on the high side for high-end sedans but let’s leave that to one side.

As a contrast, we installed 9.86kwh of solar panels with an 8.2kw inverter on our house for just over $10,000 last year (after rebates). From March 1st 2018 to the end of February 2019 that system has produced 12,576 kwh of energy. It is hard to get an exact figure on how much carbon dioxide production is reduced by that production because it depends on the generation mix and where you are located. Figures at Solar Market indicate a saving of 1.75 tonnes to 2.05 tonnes in 2013 for 3200 kwh produced depending on the gas and coal mix that is substituted for. Due to changes in the power system since then the carbon intensity is lower so lets use 1.5 tonnes for 3200kwh. So the saving from our solar system would be roughly 6 tonnes. This is a little less than what my inverter system and electricity bill says so it is a reasonable estimate.

A new Tesla Model S 100 D is listed on the Tesla Australian site at $141,000[1]. By contrast, I can buy a 2019 BMW330i Luxury Line for $76,572[2] which while not a top end luxury vehicle is still a pretty nice car. So I could buy that car and use the difference to the Tesla purchase price to install 6 lots of solar panels to the same specification that I have installed on my house. That would save 36 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to buying a Tesla S 100D and saving about 2.73 tonnes.

Now this may seem like almost a petty point, but it is important when we start looking at the adoption groups. It is my view that there is a very small group who will buy an electric car for its environmental benefit. This is because despite the hype the carbon dioxide reduction levels are not great enough to justify a big difference in the purchase price. which means that economics has to drive the vast majority of the market once other adoption barriers have been removed. This is where we will go next installment. Part 2 – The Early Adopters

[1] — accessed Feb 26th 2019

[2] — accessed Feb 26th 2019