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We, among many others, have been touting that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future. However, the present must eventually catch up – are EVs ready to go mainstream?

There are many factors until a technology reaches the “tipping point” of mass adoption. According to the theory of diffusion of innovations by communications theorist Everett Rogers, innovation adoption starts slowly – about 2.5% at the start, growing along a bell curve until the market reaches saturation point. Right now, EVs are in the tiny “innovators” phase where market share is low, yet interest is growing. Is there enough going on in the EV space to warrant mass adoption? We look at the lay of the land when it comes to EVs.

There is a will for EVs…

According to research from Savvy, 73% of Australians agree that moving to EVs is important to tackle climate change. 79% of 18–24-year-olds, 78% of 25–34-year-olds, and 82% of 35-44 year-olds agreed with the premise that EVs are needed to curb climate change.

40% of those surveyed from a representative Australian sample (n=1,001) said they would purchase an EV in the future, with 7% of those saying they’d do so in the next year. 2% said they already owned one.

59% of those surveyed said they felt strongly that Australia should aggressively push EVs as “the future” of road transport. However, the sting on one’s hip pocket nerve is getting in the way.

…but not much of a way

79% of respondents to the survey said that affordability needs to improve before they take the plunge and buy one.

EV sales correlate to the survey, with only 1.6% of all new vehicles registered in Australia being EVs. That lags behind the global average of 4.2% and even the US, which aggressively markets EVs, on 2.3%.

The biggest barrier to entry is price – 43% saying the prices are simply too high. There is also a lack of models on offer and a lack of supporting policy – more on that later.

It would seem there is a demand for electric cars – and people can rent instead of buy to further reduce emissions and on road costs.

Which brings us to the next hurdle. Charging stations and their availability. 17% are concerned about charging station availability.

Fast chargers still not abundant

There are only about 3,000 EV public charging points for an Australia that’s almost 7.7 million square kilometres of open land. When most capital cities may require two or more charging hops to get between them, petrol driven cars become more appealing.

According to another report by Savvy, there are only 291 public charging locations with fast charging technology (not individual chargers) above 50kW. Typically, one kW of charge will add one kilometre for each ten minutes of charging. The fastest available chargers are 350kW “ultra-rapid” stations, which are scant on the ground.

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There are more regular charging stations – 50kW or below – but the lower the charge the longer it takes to get back on the road. It’s difficult to argue that petrol driven cars are refuelled in a matter of minutes while taking EVs may require planning – and a lot of “hurry up and wait.”

About 700 new fast charging stations will be built around Australia in the next five years. The Federal Labor Government pledged an additional $39.3 million investment (adding to the previous Coalition government’s $24.55 million) to provide charging stations every 150km.

Incentives and green loans

To encourage people into EV ownership, government incentives and lower-interest green loans are available for EV purchases, but in most cases, it’s not enough to offset the high price of purchase.

The ACT has the best incentives, offering $5,840 in EV incentives such as registration discounts, purchase subsidies, and other enticements. NSW, QLD, Victoria, and SA all offer $3,000 purchase subsidies. That’s great – but if the car costs upward of $70,000 or more, is that enough to tip people into the EV camp?

It may be easier to get finance for an electric vehicle considering the government’s low-emissions or no-emissions guide to help people save on fuel and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time. However, this is a classic case laying out the path and hoping people walk it.

What about renting an EV?

Renting an EV and not worrying about the upfront cost could be a boon to would-be EV owners who want to tackle climate change, save on fuel, and experience many different models and styles before they settle on one for good.

According to the Electric Vehicle Council, the average petrol car costs $14 per 100km to run and maintain, while an equivalent EV only costs $4 per 100km. The cost of renting a petrol car versus an electric car means the EV will win the hip pocket battle every time.

Though innovation diffusion will move slowly, EVs will be the future – what time that is we’ll have to wait and see.