Australian consumers lag in their willingness to drive electric

26 July 2021 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read
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A new global survey by professional services firm EY has again highlighted how far behind Australian consumers are to other major economies when it comes to electric vehicle uptake.

Australia has landed dead last behind twelve other major economies when it comes to consumer intentions to switch to electric vehicles, according to the new survey by professional services firm Ernst & Young. Just 17 percent of the Australians surveyed who were planning to buy a new car said they were considering a fully electric or hybrid model, compared to a global rate of 41 percent.

As a contrast, almost two thirds of consumers in Italy – a nation with a proud automotive history of high-performance, gas-guzzling sport-cars – said they were considering an EV as their next purchase, with only 28 percent planning to opt for an internal combustion vehicle. For Australia, three quarters of those currently in the car market were intending to continue filling up at the ‘servo’.

Powertrain preference of consumers planning to buy a car

For its second EY Mobility Consumer Index, the firm canvassed 9,000 drivers across 13 major markets in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific, recording a significant 11 percent jump in the desire for an electric car in just the nine months since the last survey in September. Indeed, Australia was not among the previously surveyed markets, so in fact dragged the figure down.

While electioneering rhetoric and misinformation from the federal government can shoulder a fair portion of the blame for reluctance among Australian consumers toward electric vehicles (famously describing Labor’s EV policy as a ‘war on the weekend’), the wider responses of the EY survey suggest a heavy impact on sentiment from Covid-19, from which Australia has been relatively shielded.

Almost four out of five of the respondents looking to purchase an EV stated that the pandemic had heightened their environmental concerns, with half citing the environment as their primary reason for wishing to do so (a figure consistent in Australia). However, the top factors influencing the choice of transport mode overall are hygiene and infection concerns, with likely environmental ramifications.

Shift in work journeys before COVID-19 vs future intention

Compared to pre-Covid levels, public transport as a future mode of mobility is down by 11 percent, with walking and cycling also dropping in preference. This translates to a massive boom in personal car ownership, reversing recent regional trends toward shared mobility options. Of those surveyed, one half intend to buy a car in the future, up a massive 17 percent from the previous survey.

Still, EY’s Global Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Leader, Randall Miller, describes the latest survey as a tipping point. “After a bumpy year, it is clear that not only is there a global appetite for people to get back on the road, but that demand for EVs is continuing its meteoric rise. This is a fundamental shift in attitudes, which will ultimately be beneficial for the consumer and the planet.”

Top 5 motivations and concerns when purchasing an EV

One area of the survey which suggests that its government inaction rather than conservative rhetoric which is impacting Australian consumers is in the concerns cited when it comes to buying an electric car. While cost of ownership was the greatest concern at both the global and Australian levels, the second greatest concern globally was range, whereas in Australia it was charging infrastructure.

“People often claim that if you build it they will come, but EV-buyers are already on their way, and our utilities, government and infrastructure planners are playing catch-up,” Miller concludes, also urging manufacturers to innovate and involve themselves in providing key infrastructure. “It would be a huge setback if adoption were to be hindered because the pieces around it weren’t in place to meet consumer demand.”