Zero Emissions Byron (ZEB) has been promoting the uptake of Electric Vehicles as part of its strategy to reduce local emissions. In 2019, ZEB held a successful EV Expo which was attended by over 500 people. Over the Covid lockdowns ZEB organised a series of 8 Webinars on different Electric Vehicle topics and over September and October surveyed residents and visitors of the Northern Rivers region of NSW to ascertain their knowledge of, interest in and concerns about Electric Vehicles. The key survey findings are summarised below.
- 274 respondents from 5 LGAs: Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore and Richmond River.
- (49% respondents from Lismore)
- 85% of respondents would like to own an electric vehicle
- 64% want one because of climate change benefits
- 25% liked the prospect of using their own solar power to charge their EV
- The top barrier to buying an EV is price, with range concerns (17%) following.
Of the 10% of respondents who already own an EV, 27% had bought secondhand – so already a market
- Of those who already owned an EV, 85% charge at home, of which 52% use solar of green power.
- EV owners bought the car on price (37%) or environmental benefits (26%)
Results of the survey
In total 274 responses were received.
Car ownership and use
Nearly half the respondents (46.5%) had 2 cars in their household, while another third (32%) had only one car. The remainder had 3 or more cars and or a variety of bikes, motorbikes and scooters.
More than half the respondents (57%) drove less than 40 km on weekdays and only 4% drove more than 300km. However, on weekends driving patterns changed and the highest number of people (37%) drove between 40 and 80km. Again, only 3% drove more than 300km.
10% of respondents already own an EV – significantly higher than the Australian average of 1%, but 85% say they would like to own one! Interestingly, 27% of those who own an EV bought it second hand, indicating the existence of a second-hand market already.
The most common EV brands were Tesla (26%), Nissan Leaf (22%) and Hyundai (19%), with 7% of respondents owning e-bikes or e-scooters. Cars were chosen primarily on the basis of price (37%), environmental benefits (26%) and driving range (22%). 30% of EVs had a driving range of more than 400km, while 22% had a range of less than 100km.
Most charging is done at home (85% - of which 52% use solar or GreenPower), with 11% being done at free public charge points, indicating that the roll-out of commercial charge points has not yet had a significant impact in our region.
Attitudes to and concerns about EVs
EV Owners particularly enjoy the benefits of emissions free / fossil fuel free driving, which some referred to as “Guilt Free” driving! They also love the quiet, responsive and smooth drive experience. Some are hoping to upgrade to SUVs to cope with local roads, or cars with longer range, when they can afford to do so.
For those interested in becoming EV Owners, the majority (64%) want to do so because of the climate change benefits, while another 25% like the prospect of using their own solar power. Price remains a key barrier, with 46% of those interested only able to spend up to $30,000 and 82% only able to spend up to $40,000. After price, the key concerns are range (17%) and suitability of EVs currently available (13%).
Although 18% of respondents had no concerns at all about EVs, others had concerns about the sources of electricity used to charge EVs (33%) and about the batteries: how long they would last (45%), whether they would be recycled (41%), whether they could be replaced (32%), the energy used to make them (28%), whether they would catch fire (8%) and the environmental and labour conditions associated with input materials (2%). There were also concerns around servicing availability (37%) and cost (30%), insurance, towing, depreciation and resale value, as well as the potential for governments to introduce new taxes after purchase.
While governments are focussed on charge stations, only 12% of respondents do not have easy access to charge points. This of course may not apply to people driving through or holidaying in the region. Nevertheless, 50% of survey respondents would only be willing to drive up to 5 km from home or work to access a charge point and a third were unaware of existing charge points. More signage or other publicity around existing charging sites is obviously needed, although perhaps mainly for non-EV owners, as maps of charging stations accompany EV GPS systems as well as charging company registrations. The best-known charging station is the NRMA one at the Farm, Ewingsdale (42% of people were aware of it), followed by the two Byron Shire Council owned charge stations at Byron Bay library (37% awareness) and Mullumbimby (31%), and the Southern Cross University site (24%).
The majority of respondents thought that Federal (69%) and State Governments (64%) should be responsible for charging stations, although significant numbers also think Local Governments (44%), and EV charging companies (41%) should provide them. Other entities listed were car companies (29%), the NRMA (27%), and local businesses (25%).
In terms of convenience, most people would like to see charge points in public car parks (81%), shopping centres (79%), service stations (60%) and sporting facilities (51%). Other suggestions included Council facilities, highway rest stops and hospitals.
The Wish List
Respondents were particularly keen to see future EVs having batteries that could be swapped out (66%) and that could be used as power supplies in the home or while camping (65%). Self-driving features were of interest to 23% of respondents, while a range of other features were also mentioned, including self-charging via solar panels on the car, 4WD and towing capability and 3rd party servicing.
With regards to government incentives for EVs, the majority of respondents favoured reduced sales tax (87%) and registration costs (79%), as well as exemption from luxury car import taxes (74%). Government grants were supported by 44% of respondents, while charging time (43%), parking (37%) and driving lane benefits (22%) were also supported.
There was wide interest in all types of Electric Vehicles, including compact cars, SUVs, utes, buses, taxis, bikes and boats, as well as in conversion of existing vehicles.
In summary, there is widespread interest in EVs in the Northern Rivers, with the market likely to increase rapidly once prices drop and a wider range of vehicles is made available.