Sales of electric vehicles are expected to increase in the NT in 2022 as prices, subsidies tipped to increase prevalence

Top End engine enthusiasts meet once a month to talk about cars and bikes with coffee and donuts in hand.

On this clear Sunday – in the parking lot of Howard Springs Bakery on the outskirts of Darwin – sits both the past and perhaps the future of Australian motoring.

A car among the award-winning range of vehicles attracts more attention than usual.

Parked next to a Holden HSV Maloo – once touted as the world’s fasting machine – is an electric motorized Tesla Model X 100D, its gull-wing doors in the attic.

The electric vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 4.9 seconds, has a top speed of 250 km / h and a range of 565 kilometers.

There are currently only 61 electric vehicles registered in the Northern Territory, and the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia ranks NT last among all states and territories for electric vehicle penetration, where only 0.03 percent of our light vehicle fleet is electric, well below 2020 global average of 4.2 per cent.

Three people are standing in a parking lot near a Tesla vehicle with the doors open.
It is not often that one sees Teslas in the northern territory.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

However, the territory’s small and dedicated community of electric car enthusiasts hopes to change that.

Richard Smith, owner of the Tesla family’s SUV, has been driving close to 60,000 miles since buying the vehicle in 2018.

“I often hear people say that you can not drive an electric vehicle in the NT, and I use that opportunity to tell them that it’s actually quite easy … I let them know some of the things I’ve done, “says Mr. Smith, who is from Darwin.

Richard Smith drives his Tesla.
Richard Smith has been driving around Australia in his electric vehicle.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

When he drove the Tesla, Mr. Smith Australia over 18 days, often over 1,000km in a single day.

“I took Port Augusta to Melbourne in one day, well over 1,000km, and Sydney to Brisbane in one day,” he says.

Sir. Smith has also traveled extensively in the Northern Territory, including driving the Alice Springs-to-Darwin trip many times.

“It would be fair to say that better and faster infrastructure along Stuart Highway would make the journey easier, but there are many more outlets in Australia than petrol stations, so in terms of being able to charge your vehicle there is no problem.” he says.

A Tesla in a shed near a charging port.
The free charging port on Darwin’s Charles Darwin University campus is powered by solar energy.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Local Darwin Joseph Chin, who moderates a Facebook group dedicated to renewable energy solutions and ownership of electric vehicles, is also fighting for electric vehicles, but does not yet own one.

He says the price and the limited selection have kept him from buying one, but he expects that to change with the arrival of cheaper models with larger selections, which are expected to enter the Australian market in 2022.

Commercial companies have already begun installing chargers or refitting existing structures to meet the trickle of cars driving on the territory’s roads.

Middy’s Electrical of Darwin installed its first charger in August 2020 and has one or two regulars twice a month who use the service, as well as a number of drop-ins.

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Department head Jay Hibberd cites the relatively low consumption of the service for the small number of electric vehicles in Darwin.

But he expects an increase in spending with the planned introduction of incentives from the Northern Territory government, which is due to take effect in July 2022.

“I feel once the incentives come in, there will be a huge demand for use, not just here, but across the territory.”

This charger for electric cars sits in an underground car park in Darwin near Parliament House.
This charger for electric cars sits in an underground car park in Darwin near Parliament House.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The Northern Territory government has committed to installing charging outlets across new state-owned and leased buildings.

It also offers stamp duty concessions and free registration for electric vehicles for the first five years of ownership.

Eva Lawler, the Minister of Renewable Energy and Energy, has said the government of the territory will “support the installation of fast chargers in strategic locations across the main road network”.

The government also has a plan to convert its fleet to electric vehicles at a rate of 20 vehicles per year, culminating in 200 vehicles by 2030.

Currently, there are 15 electric cars across the fleet, which – according to a report by the National Transport Commission released in August 2021 – places the Northern Territory penultimate as a percentage of total sales of electric or hybrid cars by the state or territory government.

According to the government’s plan, electric cars from the fleet will also enter the second-hand market after their replacement, offering another route to cheaper electric cars in the future.

Joseph Chin does not think the concessions go far enough.

He suggests that the government follow the lead of other states by offering $ 3,000 discounts on new electricity purchases.

“The concessions will be useful to a point, but I would prefer to see a discount introduced,” he says.

The prices of many top-class electric cars remain unaffordable, as vehicles like Mr. Smith’s Tesla costs almost four times as much as Australia’s best-selling SUV, the Toyota RAV4.

At the federal level, the Morrison government has released its strategy plan for Future Fuels and Vehicles, which includes the installation of three fast-charging outlets, but only for Darwin in the first round of the plan.

It contains no financial incentives to stimulate the spread of electric cars, instead relying on partnerships with the private sector

The Federal Labor, meanwhile, has committed to making electric vehicles more affordable through the exemption of many electric cars from import duties and fringe benefits, saving employers up to $ 9,000 on a $ 50,000 electric car if purchased through employment schemes.

Aside from government measures, the arrival of new electric vehicles costing less than $ 50,000 is expected to accelerate sales growth in Australia.

And the expected arrival of electric off-road vehicles in 2022 is expected to increase sales in Northern Australia, where there is a strong 4WD community and culture.

David Brown – sales and account manager for group fleet at the new and used car dealership Darwin Motor Group – says that cheaper options “definitely help the consumer to consider buying an electric vehicle rather than an internal combustion engine” because electric cars and cars with internal combustion engines run against the price parity.

A window sticker showing energy consumption statistics.
Larger range car models are expected to hit the market in 2022.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Brown says a significant drop in costs, combined with the introduction of government incentives, could potentially encourage “the wider community to buy an environmentally friendly solution”.

With range-anxiety declining thanks to the deployment of new chargers across the country and apps to help locate services, Mr Brown expects an increase in “consumer peace of mind and confidence with the full electric models”, something many in the territory already established EV community has already.

Peace of mind for Mr Smith and his family comes from knowing that his vehicle is charged overnight in his home, “like a cell phone”, powered by solar energy collected during the day, and that – when he leaves in the morning at work or to drop off the kids for sports – his car is ready to drive.

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