Can you be electric too?

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It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the Toyota Prius hit the market in Japan, making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.

Despite Toyota’s savvy marketing tactic of giving cars away to stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, the Prius struggled from both being the first to market and assumptions that being a petrol/electric hybrid compromised its performance.

Now it’s commonplace to hear (or not hear) the sound of hybrid cars gliding down suburban streets as all the major manufacturers now offer hybrid models.

Now that the technology has been refined, improved and produced at scale, we’re staring down the barrel of a new era when fully electric cars become widely available to Australians.

What’s available?
The Tesla is probably the most well-known of all brands of electric vehicle (EV) on the market. Named for the electrical engineer and inventor Nikolai Tesla, the company is chaired and largely funded by PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Aside from being the first to market with a fully electric vehicle, another key contribution Tesla has made to the industry is forcing the hand of the major manufacturers, by showing there is consumer demand for a fully electric car. Even one that costs more than $100,000.

But still, there are only three manufacturers currently selling completely electric models in Australia: Tesla (of course), BMW and Nissan.

There are four more models of EV likely to hit the Australian market in the next few years including the Audi Q6, Jaguar IPACE both due in 2018 with the Mercedes Benz EQ likely in 2019 and no release date yet for the VW eGolf, likely to retail for around $40,000.

What does it cost?
While electric cars free you from the shackles of the petrol bowser and the inevitable price rises, you have to buy from a very limited range, and of course, you have to pay for the electricity.

The base model Tesla S will set you back just over $100,000 – it is a pretty luxurious car, but definitely out of reach for the average Australian family.

The BMWi retails for around $69,000 while the Nissan Leaf is the least expensive option at $40,000.

While the ideal scenario is to charge your car overnight at home, there are also charging stations located around the country, but having so few models on the market, these are limited. Tesla currently only has 10 in Sydney, for example.

As far as the cost of charging goes, according to estimates by energy retailer Ergon Energy, the average price for electricity per kilowatt hour (kWh) in Australia is about $0.25 and it takes around 18 kWh to travel 100km in an average EV. So, it will cost approximately $4.50 in electricity charges to travel 100km. That compares with approximately $16.65 for the same trip in a comparable petrol vehicle.

There are clear savings to be made in running an electric car, and they’re likely to become more affordable to buy over time. The benefits to the environment of zero emissions are compelling, but it’s worth considering whether or not you’re using renewably sourced electricity to charge your EV if the environment is an important factor for you.

Paul Higgins is Director of HelloCars.

This article first appeared on Yahoo7.

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