“We both reached that point where it seemed like this is where the future of cars was going,” she said.
There are very few electric cars on Australia’s roads.
Last year battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) made up less than 1 per cent of all new car sales.
But there is increasing interest in making the switch — a 2020 survey of Queensland households found half of those who considering buying a new vehicle in the next three years would consider an electric vehicle (EV).
The biggest thing holding them back from making a purchase is price, Rob Wilson, Energy Queensland’s product and development manager, said.
“Only a couple of months ago, they were no less than $65,000 for starting price,” he said.
“That certainly is a big thing holding customers back, and [there is a] lack of inducement to help bring down some of those costs to bring them within reach of the more mass-market customer.
“We certainly see that in other countries where inducements certainly do help the uptake of energy vehicles, both PHEVs and BEVs.
“That’s potentially why Australia is lagging in the international market from an uptake point of view.”
Electric car sales are on the rise in the United Kingdom and Europe ahead of the implementation of emission targets and bans on internal combustion engines.
In Norway, the global leader in switching to electric vehicles, EVs made up nearly 80 per cent of total car sales last month.
Overcoming the ‘perception’ of range anxiety
Mr Wilson said fears about how far you could drive an electric car before it ran out of power, known as range anxiety, also made Australian buyers hesitate.
Research suggests Queenslanders want an EV to have a range of 500 kilometres, roughly the distance between Brisbane and Gladstone.
The average Queenslander’s daily commute is about 40 kilometres.
“You don’t have to charge every day just to get to work and back,” he said.
“This is the difference between reality and customer perception about truly what you necessarily need to get about.
“But in that regard, perception in the market is reality.”
Part of range anxiety is also knowing where you will be able to charge your car when you are away from home.
And while Australia lacks an established network of fast-charging stations, long-time electric car owner Slava Kozlovskii said he had not found that to be an issue.
“I believe the charging infrastructure today is already sufficient enough,” said Mr Kozlovskii, who is based in Canberra.
“I’ve been driving electric cars for five years now, so for me it probably doesn’t seem like an issue.
“I feel like for someone who has never driven an electric car before it seems like a concern, but the reality is actually quite different.”
Mr Kozlovskii founded electric car-sharing community Evee in early 2016.
Before the pandemic, international travellers made up a lot of the company’s customers, as well as people who wanted to try out an electric car for a few days.
Out of the business’s more than 3,000 customers to date, he said no-one had run out of charge.
“We had customers in 2019 coming from Italy for the first time to Australia. They don’t know the local roads, infrastructure, how to travel,” he said.
“They jumped in the car and travelled 5,500 kilometres in a Tesla in three weeks, no problem.”
Ms Sawatzki and her husband’s range anxiety has eased over time.
She said they knew they drove about 350 kilometres a week, which was mostly her husband going to and from work, but they had a bit of nervousness that came with owning a new device.
“We were constantly checking the app and making sure that it was charged every day,” she said.
“Now we kind of know how much we use, we’re probably getting to every second or third day that we’re charging.
“We haven’t really had long road trips so it hasn’t warranted an, ‘Oh my God, where’s the charging station?'”
Mr Wilson said the tipping point for buying an electric car was different for everyone — price, total cost of ownership, range, environmental concerns.
But once they hit that point, he said, they did not want to drive a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE).
“Even if they might have had a teething problem with almost running out of energy on a particular drive … they’ve learned from that, and ultimately it’s an extremely positive outcome.”
That rings true for Ms Sawatzki and her husband, who are looking forward to the end of their visits to the petrol station.
“It’s just completely shaken us out of that system,” she said.
Extracted in full from: Waiting for cheap petrol a thing of the past for Australian drivers switching to electric cars – ABC News