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EV or hybrid? Here’s what to consider before buying

New data shows more Australians are looking away from petrol-only vehicles.

New data shows more Australians are looking away from petrol-only vehicles. Photo: Getty

Australian families are increasingly choosing electric when buying their next new vehicle, but whether to ditch petrol entirely or opt for a hybrid model can be a difficult question to untangle.

There’s plenty to think about, including your upfront budget; how much you drive and where; and even what your living situation looks like.

So what do you need to consider before taking a plunge on a new electric vehicle or hybrid?

Price: Upfront versus over time

Price is among the most important considerations when buying anything, let alone a new vehicle.

When it comes to deciding between an EV and a hybrid, it’s a question of the trade-off between upfront costs and running expenses.

Adrian Taylor, executive GM of general insurance at Compare the Market, said a new EV will cost you significantly more than a hybrid, but can offer cheaper running costs without petrol.

This will depend on whether you’re charging at home or at public stations,” Taylor explained.

“On average, costs are around 50 cents per kWh at public stations, but can skyrocket to 90 cents per kWh at some locations – especially if you’re using fast chargers.”

In terms of upfront costs, hybrids retail for as low as $27,000, while the cheapest EVs are nearly $40,000. There are also different types of hybrids, with plug-in versions typically being pricier.

To work out how much an EV could save you over time versus a hybrid or even a petrol car, there are handy (and free) online calculators which will give you estimates based on model.

How and where do you plan to drive?

The other major factor to consider when choosing between an EV and a hybrid is what type of driver you are, because hybrids do have some advantages if you drive a lot and more remotely.

The reality is that the cheapest EVs on the market have a charge range of between 340km (standard) and around 430km (extended), while pricier EVs like the Tesla model 3 can run as far as 630 kilometres.

For most drivers that’s more distance than they’ll typically need in a single day, or even week, but hybrids do have the advantage of being able to drive past the range of their battery, Taylor said.

“As they can operate on both petrol and electricity, you usually don’t need to think twice about driving longer trips than your everyday drives,” he said.

“A side benefit of this is that petrol stations are more readily available than their electric counterparts, so if people are running low on fuel, you’re most likely to be able to come across a petrol station sooner than an electric charger.”

Charging access is an important consideration, particularly if you’re driving in rural and remote areas, and so motorists should check their availability using an online tracker like PlugShare.

Your home

At this point, you might be thinking that a hybrid is clearly the better financial option – after all, it costs less and is potentially more flexible to run than an EV (not counting emissions).

But the savings from a purely electric vehicle can be quite substantial over time, particularly in cases where you have – or plan to install – rooftop solar panels at your property.

Running an EV charged by solar panels can cost as little as 60 cents to run per 100 kilometres, according to estimates from Solar Citizens, which is far cheaper than the cost of petrol travel.

And so when making a decision between a hybrid or EV, you’re also going to need to think about any plans you might have to electrify your household more broadly, as it shifts the financial math.

“People will also need to consider the rising cost of electricity and how that may play into their household budget, and whether investing now in solar power and batteries is worth it to them in the long run,” Taylor said.

Beware hidden costs

Whether buying an EV or hybrid, motorists will also need to budget for an array of extra costs.

Taylor said fast charging at home requires specialised equipment and an electrician, which can set you back thousands, though wall charging is also possible, albeit at a much slower rate.

Lastly, beware the possibility of higher insurance costs with an EV.

“These higher prices could be due to factors like EVs having a higher upfront cost, complex technological components that cost more to replace or repair and a lack of specialists who can currently carry out these repairs,” Taylor said.

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