A Beginners guide to electric vehicles in Tasmania

If you’re thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) or just curious about the technology, this guide is designed to help Tasmanians navigate topics including purchasing an EV, available incentives, charging infrastructure, popular EV models and more.

Introduction to electric vehicles in Australia and Tasmania  

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been growing rapidly in popularity in Australia and elsewhere for more than a decade. The first mass-market EV, the Nissan Leaf, went on sale overseas in 2010 and reached Australia in 2012, the same year that Tesla began manufacturing its first mass-market model, the Tesla Model S, which reached Australia in late 2014.   

In the decade since, sales of new EVs have exploded in Australia, with the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) reporting that a record 87,217 EVs were sold in Australia in 2023, an increase of more than 160 percent on 2022 sales. This represents 7.2 percent of all new vehicle sales and is almost on par with EV market share in the US.   

Tasmanians are leading the nation in adopting electric vehicles. The ABC reported in August 2023 that EV sales had almost doubled in Tasmania in the preceding 12 months to represent about one in 10 of all new vehicle sales in the state, although the number of EVs in use in Tasmania is still small compared with internal combustion engine cars (ICEs).   

Read on to discover the many reasons why Tasmanians might consider buying an electric car, including environmental benefits due to the absence of tailpipe emissions, lower servicing costs due to EVs having fewer moving parts, and reduced running costs due to electricity being cheaper than petrol or diesel.   

Understanding electric vehicles  

Benefits of electric vehicles 

There is still some debate about whether EVs are better for the environment than ICE vehicles, given that in many parts of the world, including Australia, electricity to charge them comes from coal- and gas-fired power stations.   

However, a 2020 study by researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Exeter and Nijmegen in The Netherlands found that in 95 percent of the world, driving an electric car is better for the environment than driving a fuel-powered vehicle.   

The report found that average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70 percent lower than petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France (which get most of their electricity from renewables and nuclear), and around 30 percent lower in the UK.   

Given that Tasmania is 100 percent self-sufficient in renewable electricity and was the first Australian jurisdiction to achieve net zero emissions in 2013, the benefits of driving a vehicle that emits zero tailpipe emissions are likely higher here than in mainland states.   

Types of electric vehicles  

There are several different types of electric vehicles, with the most common being hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV):

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is powered by both an internal combustion engine and at least one electric motor that is powered by a rechargeable battery, which is unable to be recharged by an external source. The battery is recharged by the internal combustion engine and onboard energy recovery systems as the vehicle drives.  

An HEV uses significantly less fuel and therefore creates fewer exhaust emissions than an ICE vehicle, thanks to the electric motor supporting the combustion engine during acceleration, and the ICE not running at idle under certain conditions.  

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is powered by both an internal combustion engine and at least one electric motor that’s powered by a rechargeable battery, which can be recharged from an electrical power source. A PHEV typically has a traction battery that is larger than that found in an HEV, but smaller than that in a BEV.  

A key advantage of a PHEV is the ability to travel for a greater distance on electric power alone than an HEV, meaning it’s possible to drive commutable distances with zero tailpipe emissions. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has an electric driving range up to 84km, which is enough for many Tasmanians to travel to and from work each day, provided the vehicle is recharged each evening.  

PHEVs can also be used on long-distance journeys without needing to charge the battery en route. Once a PHEV’s traction battery is nearly depleted the vehicle’s ICE automatically fires up and takes over powertrain responsibilities. 

A battery electric vehicle (BEV) is powered exclusively by a rechargeable battery, which is charged from an external power source, and which powers one or more electric motors.  

Unlike an HEV and PHEV, a BEV has no secondary source of propulsion, doing away with the combustion engine altogether and therefore generating zero tailpipe emissions.  

In addition to recharging from an electricity source, BEVs derive some battery charge from regenerative braking while driving, so deliver their best range in stop-start driving, rather than highway driving.  

Essential considerations when buying an electric vehicle 

Range and battery life  

Because BEVs rely exclusively on their traction battery for power, the size of the battery has a material impact on the distance the vehicle can travel, as do driving conditions, driving style and overall vehicle efficiency. Battery size is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). 

Just like an ICE vehicle, the difference between the claimed range of an EV and what it achieves in the real world can vary greatly depending on driving style, terrain, ambient conditions, battery age, vehicle efficiency and other factors. Regular heavy acceleration will naturally drain the battery more quickly than a more moderate driving style, as will towing and even using the climate control system to heat or cool the cabin.      

Batteries are the single biggest cost component of a BEV, so the more range and/or performance your BEV has will often have a direct impact on its purchase price. For this reason, it’s important to consider how you plan to use your EV most of the time, since purchasing a model with a large battery and long range will add considerable cost.  

Battery life is a common concern about EVs. Many car makers have responded to this by providing extended warranties on their EV batteries that exceed that warranty of the vehicle itself. The terms of these warranties will differ from one car maker to the next, so it’s important to understand the fine print. Some car makers only offer warranties that cover the battery in the event of complete battery failure, while others warrant the battery based on a specified performance threshold.  

EV charging infrastructure in Tasmania  

BEVs can be charged using a variety of different methods, with the slowest being an AC charge from a household power point, and the fastest being high-voltage DC fast chargers such as those found at a growing number of public charging stations dotted throughout Tasmania.  

As with the rest of Australia, Tasmania’s EV charging network is expanding quickly, with the Electric Vehicle Council reporting in July 2023 that the state had a total of 36 public charging locations, comprising 31 fast chargers (24kW-99kW DC) and five ultrafast chargers (100kW DC and above).  

There’s a variety of resources available to aid with planning an EV journey. This includes apps such as PlugShare which provides maps and locations of EV chargers, including the type of charger (AC/DC), power rating, number and type of plugs, and user information on whether the charger is in service.  

While DC fast and ultrafast chargers are the preferred charging option for drivers travelling long distances, most EV charging is conducted at home using either a standard AC household plug, or a wall box. 

Charging from a wall socket (AC) is the most readily available option for most people. However, this is also the slowest charging method, adding just over 2kW of charge to the battery every hour.  

A faster method of home charging is to install a wall box. These are sometimes sold by car makers as an EV accessory, or they can be purchased from independent retailers from around $1000 plus installation by a licensed electrician. A wall box connected to AC single phase power charges at a rate of 7.2kW, making it possible to fully charge most EV batteries overnight.  

Incentives and rebates for electric vehicle buyers 

Government incentives 

The Tasmanian Government has implemented an incentive program to support the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).  

The Tasmanian Electric Vehicle Rebate scheme provides rebates of $2000to eligible individuals who ordered a new battery electric vehicle, or a second-hand electric vehicle that has been imported from interstate or overseas after 17 November 2023. Rebates are also available for the purchase of e-mobility devices, such as e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards or cargo e-bikes.  

Households, businesses and not-for-profit organisations switching to an EV can now also get help with the purchase of home-charging infrastructure through the government’s expanded Energy Saver Loan Scheme. It provides no-interest loans of between $500 and $10,000 to eligible applicants to fund the purchase and installation of energy-efficient products, including EV-charging infrastructure. 

At the federal level, the Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) exemption has been instrumental in reducing the overall cost of EVs, making them more cost-competitive with equivalent petrol or diesel vehicles. At the time of writing, the FBT exemption remains available for EVs and PHEVs priced under the luxury car tax of $89,332, but note that as of 1 April 2025 PHEVs will no longer be exempt.  

Financial considerations  

The higher purchase price of EVs is often cited as the reason some consumers are reluctant to make the switch from ICE. However, the introduction of state government subsidies, the federal government FBT exemption and the arrival of cheaper EVs have made the technology far more attainable.  

At the time of writing, Australia’s most affordable EVs were the BYD Dolphin, priced from $38,890 (RRP), and the MG4, priced from $38,990.   

While the purchase price of many new electric vehicles may still be higher than an equivalent ICE model, their ongoing operation and maintenance costs are significantly lower.   

Fuel costs are a major point of savings for EV drivers, with the Electric Vehicle Council reporting that an EV will cost around 3 cents per kilometre compared to around 10 cents per kilometre for an ICE equivalent.  

The lobby group also estimates that powering an EV is around 70 percent less expensive than fuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle, saving EV drivers an average of $1600 in fuel costs each year. 

Servicing costs are also usually lower for an EV, due to having fewer components and moving parts. An ICE vehicle typically contains around 2000-plus moving parts, whereas the drivetrain in an EV contains around 20.        

Popular electric vehicle models for Tasmania  

The Electric Vehicle Council estimated there were 91 electric car, van and ute models, and 148 variants available for sale in Australia in July 2023. This represents a 56 percent increase on the number of variants available in 2022. 

The Tesla Model Y SUV was Australia’s most popular EV in 2023, registering 28,769 sales ahead of the second-placed Tesla Model 3 which sold 16,506 units, and the BYD Atto 3 which managed 11,042 sales.  

The Model Y, like some rival EVs, is sold with the choice of single and dual motors, and with different battery sizes labelled ‘standard range’ and ‘long range’. The larger batteries are often teamed with dual motors to provide both all-wheel drive traction and greater performance, which increases the purchase price of these models.  

Some consumers incorrectly assume that EVs offer inferior performance to ICE-powered vehicles but this is far from true. The characteristics of electric motors mean they deliver their maximum torque immediately, so they respond instantly and accelerate rapidly.  

EVs are also generally much quieter than ICE vehicles due to the lack of engine and exhaust noise. Their interior accommodation or ‘packaging' is also often superior due to the absence of components like radiators, exhausts and gearboxes.       

However, one area where EVs are notably inferior to ICE vehicles at present is in their ability to tow caravans and other heavy trailers over large distances. This is because extra weight and aerodynamic drag of a trailer drastically reduces the range of EVs, in some cases by 50 percent or more. 

Conclusion and next steps 

We hope that by reading this article we’ve helped you better understand the different types of EVs, available incentives, charging infrastructure, popular models and more.  

We also hope that you understand the need to transition Tasmania’s vehicle fleet to zero-emissions technology as rapidly as possible. With most of Australia’s transport emissions coming from light vehicles such as cars, utes and vans, this is a critical segment to decarbonise.

Transitioning to an electric vehicle in Tasmania is an accessible and environmentally friendly choice that offers numerous benefits, from reduced emissions to long-term cost savings.