Thousands on waiting lists, cars sold out in seconds – welcome to the frustrating world of electric car buyers in Australia.
Matt Holding set an alert on his phone so he wouldn’t miss out on the limited-edition Electric Vehicles, but when he went online to buy one, they were sold out.
All 109 Hyundai electric SUVs sold in six and a half minutes – 18,000 Australians expressed their interest.
“You just have to keep trying and get in right away, which seems ridiculous when you’re buying an $80,000 car,” Holding said of his second attempt to skip the line to buy a Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Industry leaders say the speed at which the cars are being sold is part of a wider problem as demand for them now outstrips supply in Australia.
“Our biggest problem right now is attracting supply of electric cars, not getting Australians interested in buying them,” said Behyad Jafari, executive director of the Electric Vehicle Council.
According to Jafari, Australia is underserved when it comes to electric vehicles compared to many other countries due to the lack of government electric vehicle and climate policies. Instead, most Electric Vehicles go to countries that require automakers to sell them to meet fuel-efficiency standards and CO2-reduction plans. Britain has banned the sale of all new petrol-powered cars from 2030, while South Korea’s date is 2025.
Last year, the Morrison government announced it would work with the private sector to fund 50,000 home Electric Vehicle charging stations, 500 business charging stations and 1,000 public Electric Vehicle charging stations. It’s part of the government’s $2.1 billion Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy. An Energy Minister spokesman for Angus Taylor said the strategy would “make it easier for Australians to choose to switch to new technology vehicles that suit them”.
But Australia remains the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development without a CO2 fuel efficiency standard. Australia has also failed to adopt the Euro 6 fuel quality pollutant emission standard, which applies to all new cars sold in the EU more than six years ago.
“Australia didn’t play,” Jaafari said. “It’s easier for our partners in the U.S., Europe and around the world to do this because they have a responsibility to bring enough electric vehicles to their markets.”
Last year, automakers warned of production cuts due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. But Hyundai Australia’s general manager of corporate affairs Bill Thomas said Australia didn’t have enough electric cars, mainly due to a lack of incentives to sell cars in Australia, rather than problems in the supply chain.
In Australia, the waiting period for Tesla models is six to nine months. Despite 20,000 Australians expressing interest, carmaker Kia will only supply 500 of its new electric SUVs this year.
Australia doesn’t have enough electric cars. What else is causing the problem?
When Electric Vehicle consultant Nathan Gore-Brown saw Honda confirm they had no plans to sell the Electric Vehicle he wanted in Australia – the Honda E, he decided to import a used car from the UK. It costs between $15,000 and $20,000 to bring the nearly $45,000 car to Australia.
A key issue holding back Electric Vehicle adoption, according to Gore-Brown, is that Australia doesn’t have the same model options as many other countries, and shipments there are often delayed. Carmaker Skoda has announced that its electric SUV Enyaq will go on sale in Australia in 2023 while is already available in the UK now.
Demand for modern electric vehicles has gradually increased since the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushed up gasoline prices, Thomas said. “We’re seeing more talk about electric vehicles in showrooms,” he said.
“People come in and look at cars, and they’re more likely to talk about the potential of electric cars, even more than they were two weeks ago.”
Hyundai has requested more electric vehicles for the Australian market, but has not confirmed whether they will be delivered. Expect to get a lower-priced version of the Ioniq 5 model later this year.
Jafari said Australians would be at risk without government leadership on electric vehicles. “Every year Australians buy a petrol car, they risk buying a new car that will be worthless in four or five years… Nobody is going to want to buy it because it’s redundant technology,” he said.
“Basically the caveat is that as the world turns to mobile phones, Australians are going to buy landlines.”
Having struggled to find an electric car for Holding’s family of four and a dog, he bought an internal combustion engine car four months ago to make ends meet.
“I needed a car and it got to the point where I couldn’t wait any longer,” he said.
A spokesperson for the energy minister, Angus Taylor, said supply chain constraints were a global problem affecting vehicles and components.
“Despite these restrictions, Australians have had the confidence to choose to drive an electric vehicle,” they said. “Sales of battery electric vehicles are growing rapidly, tripling from 2020 to 2021.”
The spokesman said the government’s modern manufacturing strategy was working to overcome global restrictions and boost local production.
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