With the ACT set to phase out fossil-fuel-powered cars from 2035, you might already be wondering how to get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle.

The ACT announced this week that by 2035 new light vehicles powered by internal combustion engines would no longer be permitted on the territory’s roads. The territory government also set an ambitious goal to have between 80 and 90 per cent of vehicles sold in 2030 to be electric.

A stamp duty waiver will be extended to second-hand zero-emission vehicles, and the way a vehicle’s registration cost is calculated will also be overhauled to charge based on emissions rather than weight.

Electric cars are heavier – because they are loaded up with batteries – than their petrol equivalents, so the current system would disadvantage people taking up electric models. That’s why there is a two-year free registration period for new zero-emission vehicles registered in the ACT until 2024.

The suite of policies will no doubt make many Canberrans wonder when and how they should swap the petrol pump for the power socket.

Should you wait for the newest Tesla? Splash out for the Porsche Taycan? Or buy a second hand Nissan Leaf?

Here are the answers to all your questions.

What kind of EVs can I buy in the ACT right now?

Unfortunately, due to a global microchip shortage there aren’t many electric vehicles available for sale in the ACT. Car dealerships contacted by The Canberra Times confirmed that most models have a six-month waiting list.

The Australian Electric Vehicle Association lists 50 models available in Australia at the moment – including plug-in electric hybrids – that features models manufactured by Tesla, BMW, Audi and Volvo.

Australian Electric Vehicle Association secretary Warwick Cathro said the material shortage is one of the biggest barriers to accessing EVs.

“The supply bottleneck is the most serious barrier to uptake, medium or long term. Those supply bottlenecks are going to happen, and they don’t just affect EVs, the effect of a lot of other products,” he said.

Professor Yogi Vidyattama from the University of Canberra, an electric vehicle take-up expert, said the shortages were actually due to Australia’s lack of regulations on emission emitting cars.

“This supply problem is due to Australian reluctance to put more regulations onto the type of vehicle, so car manufacturers put their combustion engines into the Australian market, that’s why there is a lack of supply of EVs” he said.

That should begin to change.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr this week said he was beating a path to the door of vehicle manufacturers to highlight the Canberra market as being a good place to sell electric vehicles.

A suite of new models are expected to begin arriving in Australia from next year.

What kind of charger will I need?

Most electric vehicles will come with their own charger that plug in to a usual power socket at home, but if you misplace it there are two types on the market.

The first type is the charger that most American, Japanese and some European cars use. Think Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or the Nissan Leaf. It can charge up to 240 Volts and costs between $500 and $1000.

The second type is the Tesla charger, which also charges some European cars. This is the type of charger seen at Tesla superchargers in shopping centres across Australia. You can pick these chargers up for under $500, although to have one connected to your home by Tesla will cost between $750 and $1500.

The ACT government offers $15,000 interest-free loans under its sustainable household scheme, which can cover the cost of an electric vehicle, chargers and installation.

Australian Electric Vehicle Association secretary Warwick Cathro said the material shortage is one of the biggest barriers to accessing EVs. Picture: Keegan Carroll

What if I live in an apartment?

Mr Cathro says that the lack of infrastructure available to allow charging for people living in apartments is another issue that must be ironed out in order to achieve the ACT’s electric vehicle take-up targets.

“Apartment dwellers can’t charge where their car is parked overnight, that’s a serious barrier,” he said.

Professor Vidyattama agreed, saying the lack of chargers in apartment blocks discourages many consumers from buying EVs.

However, the ACT government’s zero-emission vehicle strategy includes rolling out $2000 grants to body corporates to cover the costs of installing charging infrastructure in multi-unit developments.

The government has also committed to ensuring there is a significant increase in the number of publicly available chargers, which will mean some people who live in apartments do not need to install their own charger.

And soon, planning regulations will be overhauled to ensure all new apartment buildings in the ACT are built with the infrastructure in place to allow motorists to charge their cars in the car park.

What’s the cheapest EV?

Right now, the cheapest electric vehicle you can buy is second hand.

“You can buy second hand for between $20,000 and $25,000,” Mr Cathro said.

From August 1, secondhand electric vehicles will be included in the ACT’s stamp duty exemption, just like brand new models. The government expects this to save motorists about $1600 on average from the purchase of a second-hand car.

“It’s an important issue for the community because people don’t always buy new cars,” Mr Cathro said.

The Australian Electric Vehicle Association secretary also said buying an electric car had a financial benefit over time.

“I’ve had my EV for four years and it cost me in the high forties when I bought it, but I’ve saved over $6000 in fuel costs,” he said.

Experts expect electric vehicles to reach price parity – the point where they cost the same as a fossil-fuelled equivalent – sometime before the end of the 2020s.

From then on, it will be cheaper to own and run an electric vehicle because servicing costs are lower and electricity is significantly cheaper than tanks of petrol.

What about range? Can an EV take me to Sydney or the South Coast?

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range has the longest range, and can travel just under 600 kilometres. It costs $1450 more than the regular Model 3 at $80,000. But Mr Cathro does not believe you need the biggest range to go on your weekend away.

“Cars with modest rangers like mine – mine only has a 230 kilometre range – it’s been to Sydney, it could easily get to Melbourne, it could get to Adelaide provided all the chargers along the way are working,” he said.

Chargers can be found all along the Hume Highway, with a new one recently becoming available at the halfway point between Sydney and Canberra: Sutton Forest.

There is a lack of them on the way to the Coast, but the ACT government is hoping to make that change, with the goal that by 2025 there’ll be enough chargers along common interstate routes to get you to that weekend destination.

Mr Cathro says it’s very much needed.

“We would all benefit greatly from having a rapid charger at Braidwood,” he said.

The lack of chargers along the way to other cities and the coast is a potential roadblock to the ban, Professor Vidyattama said.

“That’s why it has to be coordinated with other states as well,” he said.

The ACT government is hoping to work alongside other governments to ensure that more chargers become available along the major routes. The Chief Minister, Mr Barr, has already met with NSW Treasurer Matt Kean to discuss charging infrastructure on the routes in and out of the territory.

Can I use my car to store electricity to power my house?

Not quite yet but the technology is not far off, and could revolutionise how households interact with the electricity grid.

Mr Cathro said the battery technology was just years away, and there are cars on the market already heading towards that.

“Right now if you bought an IONIQ-5, it has a power socket, so if you’re camping you can plug in your electric cooker, your electric fridge, another car, a TV and run it,” he said.

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