30 March 2022

Rising fuel prices cause EV shortage as Canberrans rush to swap petrol for plugs

| James Coleman
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Tesla Canberra showroom

The Tesla Canberra store on Bunda Street. Photo: James Coleman.

For many Canberrans, fuel prices jumping up to more than $2 per litre has been the final straw.

Australia has long been accused of being slow on the uptake of electric vehicles, but as the Russia-Ukraine crisis unfolds and global oil suppliers and motorists grow nervous, more and more buyers are rushing to make the switch.

But if you thought getting into a new internal-combustion car was hard at the moment, EVs can be even more challenging.

At the Canberra Tesla store, wait times for new cars have blown out by months, while the Janrule Automotive Group says demand for their EVs and petrol-electric hybrid models has been “huge” in recent weeks. Janrule is the local distributor for Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Volvo and Subaru.

READ ALSO Putting top tips to the test to make your fuel tank go further

Canberra Toyota marketing communications executive Tony Prior says interest in EVs and hybrids has been gradually increasing for years, but there has been “a dramatic spike” in the last few weeks as fuel prices have risen.

“Since the fuel crisis began, orders for hybrid vehicles jumped by 20 per cent, plus we have had an unprecedented level of enquiry coming through for electric vehicles,” he says.

While Toyota may be the overwhelming leader when it comes to hybrids, Tony says the brand is doubling down on efforts to get a fully electric vehicle ready for production. Toyota vows to release 30 new EVs by 2030, starting with the bZ4X SUV in 2023.

“However, Toyota has not yet released an official release date as ongoing issues with production delays have made that difficult to estimate,” Tony says.

Electric car and charging station

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X should be in showrooms in 2023. Photo: Toyota.

Janrule dealer principal Mirko Milic says supply levels have been “disastrous” for the past few months due to a worldwide shortage of semi-conductors, and EVs aren’t exempt.

“EVs and hybrids tend to be affected more by this because of the increased number of semi-conductors they need for their electrical systems,” he says.

Managing director of Canberra’s electric vehicle dealership Ion DNA and chair of the ACT Branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), Rob Ogilvie, says his phone has been ringing non-stop.

Rob agrees the current fuel crisis is behind the surging interest in EVs as motorists lose faith in a cheap and reliable supply of petrol or diesel. Like everyone else, he’s scrambling to quench the sudden thirst for EVs.

“We have huge demand; the problem is now a supply one,” he says.

“Factories in Russia and Ukraine have also been forced to close, impacting a number of EV manufacturers, particularly Volkswagen,” he says.

EV dealership

The Ion DNA dealership in Fyshwick opened in December 2018. Photo: James Coleman.

Then there is COVID-19, which is still hanging around and affecting factory production due to isolation requirements.

“The people just aren’t in the factories to produce them.”

To make matters in Australia even worse, Europe put in place new regulations late last year to reduce fleet emissions from automakers.

Each automaker has to sell more EVs to get their average emissions down and avoid fines of 2,000 to 2,500 euros per car.

READ ALSO Tesla store officially opens in Canberra

Rob says that in a bid to avoid the expense, Europe is taking precedence for international EV stock allocations.

“Manufacturers don’t care about us in Australia. They get zero [carbon] credit for it.”

Rob gets second-hand EVs from overseas as a registered independent importer, but he says the cost of replacing the stock has also increased as prices rise in the Japanese and UK used-car markets.

“The trouble is that I’m paying more for them because the auction price has gone up dramatically.”

Two men in front of electric cars

President Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) Chris Nash and Rob Ogilvie, chair ACT Branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA). Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Rob sees no clear end to the supply issues and says it will be an issue for years to come as long as Australia maintains its current rules around independent imports.

According to current Federal law, the number of cars independent importers can bring in is subject to a cap in a bid to limit a negative effect on the manufacturer’s official importing arm.

“What I think is going to happen is the government is going to be forced to open up the doors to used EVs because we won’t be getting the supply.”

Volvo at IKEA

The electric Volvo XC40 preparing to charge up at IKEA Canberra. Photo: James Coleman.

Rob says the swing towards EVs will likely continue gathering speed as governments realise the importance of self-reliance and EVs’ role in that.

“In Australia, we can create our own electricity, whether that be through solar, wind, coal or hydro. Because of this, if you own an EV, you have fuel security. For a lot of people, that’s now the most important thing for them.”

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Geeze, it’d be nice to have $50k to throw into a car. Sadly some of us are still struggling to pay rent while saving for a tiny home on the outskirts of Canberra because Mummy and Daddy won’t give us the $300k deposit needed to consider anything with even a small backyard…

For my commutes there was a bicycle, or occasionally the bus. I also want a car to be capable of driving all around Australia. I didn’t need a car for the commute, but I do when I go outback. I will be interested in an electric car when they are capable of the long drive and have quick recharging time. I suspect hydrogen cars will be here before electric cars manage that. Electric cars are great for people too lazy (even with an electric bike) to cycle to work. Or when buying their house, can’t be bothered to consider where it is in relationship to their work, public transport, etc, and to be willing to reduce what they think they must have in a house, to manage this. First homes, need not be forever homes.

Before getting a (very expensive) electric car, I would consider alternatives, such as cycling. Better for your waist line too.

I have an Electric bike with 300km range (yes that is correct), and I’d love to ride it to work. Unfortunately, the road is so dangerous, that any fitness gains are outweighed by the potential for pushing up daisies

Capital Retro5:34 pm 03 Apr 22

How can you get “fit” by sitting on an eclectic bike for 300km?

Not sure what you do with your eclectic bikes, but electric bikes still do need to be pedalled.

Capital Retro2:13 pm 06 Apr 22

They are the “pedelectic ones”, right?

CR, I still have to peddle. The bike weighs 32kg with the batteries, so I get a work out riding it, regardless of electric assist.

Capital Retro9:58 am 02 Apr 22

There is no way that all-electric Toyota bZ4X shown in the image would pass registration in the ACT.

Capital Retro12:54 pm 31 Mar 22

“Keep hearing that people in NSW are taking advantage of EV and hybrids being cheaper in the ACT, due to gov subsidy. Perhaps look in to that, sounds like ACT Gov funds providing discounts to non ACT taxpayers?”

That would be illegal but being virtuous in the ACT can force authorities to look the other way when EVs are involved. Just look at all the EVs in Canberra with unregulated tinted glass.

Capital Retro,
Seems you’re willing to believe anything as long as it fits in with your pre determined narrative.

Also LOL at you thinking EVs are given special treatment. You mustn’t pay much attention if you haven’t seen all the ICE vehicles with illegal modifications around around town. But I’m sure you don’t care about that right.

When an EV can tow a van to the cape, wade rivers without fail, then I will be interested

many now can do that and do not need a snorkel…. unless You are in Russia and sanctioned out of the market

Good on you, although it seems a terribly long commute. Couldn’t you find anything closer?

meika La, I very much doubt that statement. Perhaps the only EV capable of that is the Rivian R1 whish is not sold in Australia and is well under production targets in the US

Naysayers only ever compare cost of battery to fuel. Dont forget servicing and maintenance of oil, filters, coolant, head gaskets, spark plugs, timing belts, injectors, air filters, alternators, starter motors, gear boxes, exhausts – to name a few. Anyone who’s owned an EV knows they are superior to ice vehicles.

Capital Retro1:12 pm 30 Mar 22

Can EVs carry a can of spare electricity in the boot?

Capital Retro,
Why do you need extra petrol, is your fuel tank not big enough? Never had the problem of running out of fuel in a car myself, it’s pretty easily planned for.

EVs store their electricity in their batteries. If you wanted to carry more batteries in your boot for charging you could do so.

But you’d have to be a bit of an idiot to do so, when simple planning would avoid the need.

artvanecho, most EVs have radiators and coolant. The first gen Nissan Leaf did not. EVs have tires, brakes (although regen braking can alleviate the intervals of replacing brake pads), but more importantly, any auto-electrical issues would require specialist equipment and training. Any electrical gremlins out of warranty are going to be super expensive to fix. So you thought the touch screen glitches on an ICE vehicle were horrendous. Just wait until the cheap, Chinese or expensive Chinese made EV (yes those Teslas made in China) main screens go black

Future proof,
Any additional electrical equipment like you mention on EV’s would be equally applicable to new ICE vehicles, so is irrelevant.

Unless you think the newer ICE vehicles are strangely going to remove their sound systems, touch screens and electric windows etc.

Chewy 14, perhaps the point I should have made is ‘ol mate’s Tesla breaks down in the back of Whoop Whoop – the system interface for controlling everything has gone black. Do you think the local mechanic is going to be able to fix it? Sure, if you can afford a Tesla, you’d probably have a hire car in your insurance options, but that $200,000 Tesla Model S Plaid is still sitting in that small town garage. Unless you owned some Citroen or Seat (the car, not what you sit on), most mechanics are going to be able to get the parts or have them there to get you on your way

Futureproof,
Once again the situation you describe would be the case for almost every modern equivalent ICE vehicle.

No small town garage has the equipment or parts to fix modern cars, no matter the engine power source. They aren’t fronting up the cost of the diagnostic equipment for such a task on most vehicle makes.

Unless it’s something very simple, if the electrics fail as you describe, you’re going to need a tow to a regional centre at best.

Although on the plus side at least with an EV there are far less mechanical components to break down compared to their ICE counterparts.

And as we transition to EVs as the dominant vehicle, the service centres will also improve across Australia.

Hi Futureproof. Cleaned your points lately? Re-jetted the carby?
What do you think the mechanic will do with the $200k Merc sitting next to the Plaid?
(hint: read out the OBD data. It’s new -fangled stuff, I know.)

Well phydeaux, I don’t have points has my chariot of choice is a diesel, but nice of you to speculate. I did have a 1974 Datsun though, complete with carburettor. Pretty easy to work on, much easier than a Tesla with gremlins. You’re right about the Merc though, reliability is not what it used to be.

Futureproof, true to their name, avoids the fact that modern vehicles are not 1974 Datsuns, not even their own current carcinogenic transport. Complexity is a function of the multiple electronic systems, not EV vs ICE, where in fact EV is simpler and likely more reliable as in other cases where electric drive replaces petroleum power.

phydeaux, feel free to part with your hard earned on an EV. No one is stopping you. Just remember that as an early adopter you are paying far too much for the current crop. Perhaps in 10 years when the technology produces 1000km+ range and half the price, you can trade your current EV in for 5% of what you paid for it

“feel free to part with your hard earned on an EV”
I feel quite free. Thanks anyway.
“No one is stopping you. ”
We make joint decisions chez nous. Agreeing that the next replacement will be an EV was easy, but should we stay with two cars (replace one) or come down to one after considering our present needs? It affects which one. Nothing much I might want would be delivered before 2023 anyway.
Oh, and my current vehicle will not get anywhere near 1000 Km range and you could buy a very nice EV today for what I paid years ago so I see no significant price discrepancy in the vehicle niche which interests me. You opine that current ICE technology is therefore inadequate? I know there is less choice for many people, but that will change, is changing.

Capital Retro12:35 pm 03 Apr 22

I hope it can get you to WA.

“Nothing much I might want would be delivered before 2023 anyway” That’s quite a ways out. I’ll wait for the F150 lightning or Rivian R1 (maybe 2030ish)…or win lotto and get the Hummer EV as a private import. Either way, I’m quite happy with my diesel (insert woke outrage) Ford Ranger. I put 17 litres into this morning. Perhaps I could save that $36 twice a week and squirrel it away for an EV. Yeah, as someone quipped much earlier in the conversation, “fuel reaches $2 a litre, time to buy and EV” Hmm., about the math – $72 a week on fuel (own car outright) or dip into savings and fork out $80k for something with 420km range. Aw shucks, what about that new kitchen that somehow adds value to the house, or the $80k on depreciation fast than a falling bucket of cement. Still, I could sell that Ranger for more than I paid for it. Oh no, Capital Gains tax – that was sneaky. I’ll keep it thanks

Rest assured CR. There. And back.

Futureproof,
Good that you have the expansive range of your Diesel Ute.

Looks like you really need it on your own figures travelling less than 300km per week.

Capital Retro9:04 am 30 Mar 22

“Rob says that in a bid to avoid the “expense”, Europe is taking precedence for international EV stock allocations.”

Rob should be aware that as most EVs are made in China it is cheaper and easier to ship them on the “silk road” direct rail to Spain for European distribution. Also, there is no shortage of semi-conductors for stuff made for China.

Capital Retro8:55 am 30 Mar 22

“forward thinking engineers”

These people used to be called carpetbaggers or rent-seekers.

Capital Retro7:48 am 30 Mar 22

Someone needs to explain why people who can afford to shell out around $50k – $150K on a new EV can’t afford to pay a dollar a litre extra for petrol and diesel.

I say they have digested too much hype with their All Bran.

CR wrote: “Someone needs to explain…”
Always here to help.
The simplest answer is that if you can afford to shell out around $50k-$150k on a new EV, then why wouldn’t you? Price of petrol may at that point be a side issue, as you say, but why bother with that particular pestilence?
Of course most people are not in the market for, say $70k+ cars, but they get sold every day (which is one reason Timer Smith’s argument made on facebook is pretty silly, as an aside), and EV’s will only get cheaper while ICE will get more expensive. Manufacturers are steadily switching to making the former rather than the latter. Try looking forward to it.

Capital Retro10:03 am 31 Mar 22

Did you read the headline? It clearly implies that new EV sales are being driven by rising petrol prices. To suggest people are buying EVs “because they can” is nonsense.

I don’t think you have any idea how much investment there is in producing ICE powered vehicles either. They will be around for many years to come.

I read the article (and elsewhere) CR, being more influenced by data content than by headlines
“To suggest people are buying EVs “because they can” is nonsense.”
Well, I doubt it is the people who can’t. What do you think?

Capital Retro,
Good to see you coming on board the transition away from ICE vehicles.

Yes, they will be here for “many years to come”, I fully agree.

It’s the decades that are limited.

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