Should you buy an electric vehicle now, or keep waiting?

The ACT government’s recent announcement of two years’ free registration on all new and “grey import” electric vehicles has been welcomed by retailers. But the real question remains: is this incentive enough to charge up more buyers?

Just under 1000 electric vehicles are registered in the ACT, and Emissions Reduction Minister Shane Rattenbury, who recently became an electric vehicle owner himself, admits the latest incentive is not in itself enough to send people rushing off to dealerships.

But it is, he said, a “practical and meaningful” initiative.

“We want to enable and support community action to reduce emissions, and making zero-emission vehicles more available and affordable is one of the ways we can do that,” he said.

The two-year waiver only applies to the registration component, not the compulsory third-party insurance, for vehicles under 4.5 tonnes. It also covers vehicles which have been converted from internal combustion to electric power, and the two hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the market from Toyota and Hyundai (although technically neither are for sale, only lease).

Second-hand electric vehicles brought in as “grey imports”, mostly low-mileage offerings from Japan, are also covered by the rego exemption, which will remain in place until June 30, 2024.

Curiously, zero-emission motorcycles like the new Harley Davidson Livewire are ineligible, however “they may be considered in the future”, according to Access Canberra.

But buyers of second-hand EVs are still in the dark over when the zero-interest government-backed loans under the proposed sustainable household scheme will be rolled out.

For those who need a car for short hops and inner-city commuting, the early generation used EVs from Japan – predominantly the Nissan Leaf, because it’s been in production longest – are a cheap, warm, affordable and weather-proof alternative to an electric bike.

Some 4000 Canberrans have expressed interest in signing up to the household scheme, which will provide loans of up to $15,000 to cover items such as rooftop photovoltaic solar systems, battery storage, hot water heat pumps, electric stovetops and vehicle recharging infrastructure.

New and used electric vehicles owned by ACT drivers’ licence-holders and garaged in the ACT were announced as part of the household scheme too, but under different eligibility requirements that haven’t yet been disclosed.

The Nissan Leaf EV has been in production for 10 years. Picture: Supplied
The Nissan Leaf EV has been in production for 10 years.

The government says the delay in rolling out the household scheme is the result of the government waiting to lock in a credit provider to back it.

While eligibility for the scheme won’t be means-tested, the fine print on the ACT Smart website says the unimproved value of the householder’s property – in other words, the value of the land the house sits on, without the dwelling – must be below $750,000 for non-unit-titled dwellings, and below $200,000 for unit-titled dwellings.

For some people living in Canberra’s more affluent suburbs, they simply won’t comply.

Inconsistency still dogs certain elements of the government’s incentives, with new electric cars exempt from stamp duty but the same offer not being applied to used EVs.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr admits that new electric vehicles are still an expensive transport alternative for the average car buyer.

“In the end, what’s going to bring the [EV purchase] price down significantly is scale,” Mr Barr said.

“The problem is that our national policy settings have been so retrograde that manufacturers have been dumping their worst and dirtiest vehicles into our market because they can’t sell them in the EU, or in certain US states, or indeed in Asia.”

So what are some of the EVs you can buy now, and what will you pay?

Luxury/family

Tesla Model3 (around $85,000): Beats the Audi e-Tron on price but only sold online so support for customers is patchy, if the forums are any guide. Overall a well-developed package with lots of interior space and a reasonable driving range.

Mid-range

Nissan Leaf (around $50,000): Over 10 years in production, well-built and proven. Range is still limited (around 270 kilometres in the standard version).

Entry-level

MG EV ($44,000 driveaway): British badge but the company is state-owned Chinese. It has an eight year/160,000km battery warranty and a range of about 260 kilometres. Will be beaten on price and range by coming Chinese brands.

Extracted in full from: ACT electric vehicle incentives: what you need to know | The Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT