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If you’re in a hurry to buy one now, the bargain choice EV is clearly to be found at your Hyundai dealer.

Ever wondered how much electric cars cost? The good news is that as Electric Vehicles (EVs) slowly but surely rise in popularity, prices are starting to drop, at least a little, thanks to some decent entry-level cheap electric cars finally hitting the market. Thank you, China.

Electric vehicles are many things – fabulously silent, wonderfully free of exhaust pipes and thus zero emission, torque-tastic and thus great fun to drive. Sadly, one thing you wouldn’t describe them as is “cheap”.

The car companies that make them, and actually sell them in Australia – Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Jaguar, MG, Mini, and Polestar – would probably call them at least “affordable”, but when you’re paying as much as $49,990 for a car as small as the entry-level Nissan Leaf (think Toyota Corolla size, but significantly more expensive), that’s a big call.

So what are Australia’s most affordable electric cars, and will electric vehicles get cheaper in the future? Or, in short, should you buy now – and start saving the planet – or wait a while, until we have those little niceties, like a larger charging network, and government incentives, the things that help make EVs so popular in enlightened, Nordic countries (EVs made up 54.3 per cent of all new cars sold in the Norway in 2020, a global record, up from a mere one per cent of the overall market a decade ago).

What is the cheapest electric car in Australia?

When it comes to the cheapest electric car, Australia has some good options. It’s a bit of a moving target, though, so it pays to keep checking, because most new players on the market – aside from Tesla – wants to be able to claim it has the cheap electric car motor on the market. 

Although the Renault Zoe held the crown for cheapest EV in Australia for a good while, MG Motor has swooped in with its medium all-electric SUV, the MG ZS EV, to take the title of the country’s cheapest EV, with an original price starting from $40,990 (for comparison, the ZS EV is based on the petrol-powered ZS Essence, which goes for $26,490). 

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The BYD Atto 3 SUV will become the most affordable electric car in Australia when it launches later in the year.

However, it looks as though the now-SAIC-backed MG is set to be ursurped by a new rival also hailing from China, BYD with its Atto 3 SUV. Wearing a starting price of $44,381 before on-road costs, the Atto 3 will become the new cheapest fully electric offering in Australia, whilst also offering a decent 320km driving range.

Next on the list is the Hyundai Ioniq Electric which slides into third place, with an asking price of $49,970. The current 2022 version of the model boasts a 40 per cent increase in battery capacity to 38.3kWh, compared to the previous 2019 version, and an improved driving range of 311km (the 2019 Ioniq only offered a range of 204km). 

Hyundai also has the far trendier looking, and Kona Electric as part of its electric offering, but it will cost you a heftier $54,500 for the Standard Range variant with 305km of driving range.

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Nissan’s increasingly popular Leaf – one of the world’s first mass-market EVs – is the third cheapest option in the budget electric cars race, with prices starting from $49,990.

Nissan is clearly making moves to get a stranglehold on the cheaper end of the EV market, with the more expensive Leaf e+ offering up to 384km on a single charge, a 40 per cent increase on the 270km of range of the current model.

Mini has also edged its way into the market with the Mini Cooper SE, a hatch featuring the brand’s iconic design, priced from $55,650, which can travel 233km on a full battery charge. 

With prices starting at $63,900, the Tesla Model 3 may not be the cheapest EV, but it is Australia’s best-selling EV model

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The Model 3 has enjoyed a long stint as Australia’s favourite fully electric car.

In 2021, Tesla sold 12,094 electric cars, or more than the entire Lexus, Skoda, or Volvo brands. It’s also a significant increase from the brand’s Australian sales in previous years. Why is Tesla so popular? The ability to buy the car online, a long 491km range even on the most affordable variant, and a next-generation look and feel probably heavily contribute.

It looks as though Tesla could finally face increasing competition though, with Swedish newcomer Polestar offering its new 2 crossover from $59,900 backed by a solid 440km range.

You’ll also have to save up for the first electric entrants from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the next-generation offerings from BMW but the premium automakers are offering the choice to hop into a larger model.

Reasonably new to the market is the Audi e-tron, a very large, spacious and exciting SUV, that comes with a truly eye-watering price, starting at $139,900, and claims to offer range between 328km and 417km.

Actual range vs claimed range tends to be a very variable equation with electric vehicles, but if you drive something as big, heavy and luxurious as the e-tron hard and fast, that range figure is going to shrink very quickly indeed.

Mercedes-Benz is in Audi’s wheel tracks with its own sci-fi-looking electric SUV – the EQC. It’s obviously at the higher end of the market, with a hefty price tag that starts at $124,300, but it does come with an impressive claimed range of 434km, and fantastic looks to boot.

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BMW is offering some more traditionally-shaped EVs.

BMW is following up on its electric head-start established with its bizzarre i3 hatch, now offering a new all-electric flagship in the form of the enormous iX SUV (from $135,900), more traditional i4 sedan (from $99,900), and the mid-size iX3 SUV (from $114,900) which should help it appeal to a larger audience in the premium space.

Are Electric Vehicles cheaper overseas?

After making allowances for currency conversion, the simple answer is yes – electric vehicles are cheaper overseas. 

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There are significantly cheaper EVs overseas, but they might not necessarily appeal to an Australian buyer.

For comparison, the cheapest electric car available in the US comes from Chinese manufacturer Kandi, with its K27 hatchback ($AU18,350; 17.69kWh battery with 160km range) and larger K23 hatchback (pictured above, $AU31,750; 41.4kWh battery with 289km range). 

Will EVs get cheaper?

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Remember when plasma televisions cost $20,000 a pop, and the early adopters – and the stupidly rich – bought them anyway? And within a decade they were a bit passé and you could get one at Bing Lee for $2000?

Well that’s bit like the situation with electric vehicles, although the price drops won’t be quite as sharp. One day, it seems increasingly likely, just about everyone will have one, and the prices will certainly drop as their acceptance grows. 

At this stage, EVs are a tiny percentage of the Australian car market, and achieving mass – which will certainly be helped by the kind of government incentives implemented overseas, but sadly not yet here, or at least not outside of the ACT – will definitely bring their prices down.

No less a math genius than our current Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has pointed out that high prices are one of the big reasons Australians aren’t rushing to buy EVs… yet.

“The reason why Australia has such a poor level of take-up rate for electric vehicles is because they are expensive compared to other cars,” Frydenberg said.

The lack of the kind of subsidies that other countries offer – like cash back, free registration, access to special lanes, free parking, charging stations – might also be a factor. That does, however, all look set to change.

According to a report by industry research firm Energeia, both the price and the range of electric vehicles will match petrol-powered cars in Australia within a decade.

As that playing field levels, EV sales will quickly rise, their report predicts, with electric cars making up 100 per cent of new-vehicle sales by the mid 2040s, and reaching price parity with petrol vehicles in the mid-2020s. 

In short, you’re going to buy an EV one day, it seems, but it will be a lot cheaper, and possibly more practical, if you wait a while. 

If you’re in a hurry to buy one and start saving the planet now, however, the bargain choice EV is clearly to be found either from MG or BYD.

Electric cars Australia: price comparison

Make Model Price from (MSRP)
BYD Atto 3 $44,381
MG ZS EV $44,990
Hyundai Ioniq electric $49,970
Nissan Leaf $49,990
Hyundai Kona electric $54,500
Mini Cooper SE $55,650
Polestar 2 $59,900
Kia Niro EV $60,500
Tesla Model 3 $63,900
Mazda MX-30 e35 $65,490

 

Keyword: Cheapest electric car in Australia

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