• Sally

You can take the farmer out of the country and put him in an EV, but.....

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

“I’m shitting myself”. Not known for his eloquence, my forty-something husband, Geoff, explained his mix of emotions at his first test drive of an electric vehicle.

We had made the six-hour trek to Sydney from the state’s northwest region, in our 2000 Landcruiser wagon. It is the second youngest vehicle in our eclectic fleet which includes; a 2010 Subaru Outback, 1985 Landcruiser farm Ute and 1990 Isuzu Body Truck.


With our eldest son recently turning 18, he has decked out our beloved Subey with giant spotlights mounted on the new roof racks, flashing LED lights inside the doors, fluffy dice on the rear view mirror and new all-terrain tyres, successfully claiming the vehicle. Needless to say; we needed a new car.


For us, buying an internal combustion vehicle at this time seemed like madness. What would it be worth in five or ten years?

But still, the idea of an electric vehicle was foreign and daunting. There was much to get our heads around, it wasn’t just about the features of a new car, it was how to charge it, how to plan trips and how to change our habits to make the most of this new vehicle. Whilst Geoff is more comfortable on a horse than with diesel under his nails, he still knows every inch of our current vehicles, keeping them on the road in their older years.


As we pulled out of the Tesla showroom in Chatswood for a test drive of the Model 3, we had to get used to the gear stick where the blinkers would be and the blinkers where our windscreen wipers would be. As soon as Geoff put his foot on the accelerator, all these complications were forgotten; our heads were thrown back on the head rest!

Siri (or her nicer cousin?) pleasantly guided us through the streets with copious safety warnings and advice on nearby charging options. My kids tell me it isn’t that impressive, but I was stoked with the wireless pad to place our phones charging them whilst we drove. This was particularly useful for Geoff as his phone (as usual) was flat when we arrived at the showroom. Given there is no key for the Tesla and you simply use your phone as the key, this may not be ideal for some of us!


When the saleslady said to us “it’s already going”, we were pretty shocked. I know it seems obvious, but it is definitely completely and utterly silent.


The handling really was out of this world and Geoff’s expletives were warranted. It truly is a driving experience. The regenerative braking means you almost never need to touch the brakes, simply taking your foot off the accelerator brings the car to a gradual stop, so it is really a single pedal drive.


Geoff’s favourite feature is simply the lack of repairs and maintenance. It is challenging to hear you simply don't need a service schedule for the new vehicle and that there are only around 20 moving parts, compared to over 2,000 in an internal combustion engine. This is great for us who live so far from our closest Tesla service centre. Roadside assistance is still available and some issues can be solved remotely. There is just so much less that can go wrong when you have just a battery and drive shaft and wheels.

For me, I loved the “frunk”. There is a spacious boot, or trunk in the rear like a usual sedan, but there is an additional small trunk in the front – the frunk.


The Model 3 is one of the most available electric vehicles, qualifying for the NSW government’s $3,000 rebate and stamp duty refund. Meaning from the total drive away price of $64,662, but the refund of $5,175 brings the total cost down to $59,487. This includes a 4 year warranty on the vehicle and 8 years or 180,000km on the battery.


The trip home again in The Cruiser gave us plenty of time to crunch the numbers on this new venture. Our house already has solar and batteries and in winter we have about 10kWh per day of excess solar and in summer this can be up to 25kWh per day. The car can be programmed to start charging at a particular time, when we know our solar generation is higher than our house needs. At this point we valued our electricity at 5c/kWh which is the lost income that we don’t receive from our retailer, @Enova when we use this excess energy behind the meter. Assuming we drive 20,000 km per year (and the other assumptions are listed at the bottom) when comparing with our current fleet running costs this is what we found[i]:

 
  • The Subey – 22 cents per kilometre ($4,400 for the year)

  • The Cruiser – 30 cents per kilometre ($6,000 for the year)

  • The Tesla charged on excess solar – 1 cent per kilometre ($200 for the year)

  • The Tesla charged on grid – 4 cents per kilometre ($800 for the year)

 

Plus, if we were to always recharge using free community fast chargers this cost would be zero dollars!!


Geoff was clearly pumped by the adrenaline of the driving experience and the compelling savings table. However, I continued to have reservations.

I have been called a greenie before, but I prefer to think of myself as a conservationist. I don’t like waste in any form, especially when it destroys natural resources and the asset base on which civilisation relies.


So, when it comes to electric vehicles, I have reservations about electrification and whole-of-lifecycle of the components and the “green” minerals needed to feed the world’s transition to renewable energy.


However, on a global scale, according to a New Scientist magazine article, our current energy system requires us to process 13 billion tonnes of fossil fuels per year to maintain it. For critical minerals needed to create renewable energy technologies to the same scale of the current energy system, it requires 43 million tonnes (yep, 300 times less stuff and holes in the ground). Meanwhile, in terms of Greenhouse Gases, the Independent Energy Agent states that across the lifetime of an electric vehicle it produces half the emissions of a petrol one (including the mining and processing of the “green” minerals) and if the EV is charged from renewables, this halves again. This broad rule of thumb applies for other renewable energy sources as well. Car batteries, once no longer suitable for vehicles, are routinely reused for home storage. What’s more, once fossil fuels are burnt, they are used up and gone into the atmosphere, whilst mineral resources can be reused, potentially hundreds of times.


Everything we do creates an impact, and everything we do across 7.9 billion people creates a huge impact on our planet. However our individual daily choices, our spending choices and our voting choices can decide between options with different levels of impact. This is the best we can do.


For us, this means, we have ordered our new Tesla! We are also working hard to install a new community charger for Narrabri, thanks to a generous donation from @Fimer.


We look forward to this new chapter for our community and we hope to identify a range of ways that our rural communities can benefit from this new energy system.

[i] Assumptions used: · That we pay $1.60 per litre for unleaded and diesel fuel · That we get 13km/L out of the Subey and 8km/L out of The Cruiser · That we get 350km real world (mostly open road) driving from the Tesla – this is highly conservative, 450km expected from town driving · That the Tesla takes 60kWh for a full charge (likely to be less than this) · That our Feed In Tarif is 5c/kWh and peak electricity charge is 25c/kWh · That we drive 20,000 km in a year · That we have $1,000 servicing costs and $1,000 R&M costs for an Internal Combustion Engine (conservative) · That there are $0 costs for servicing and R&M for the electric vehicle · That tyre replacements are the same for both types of vehicles

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