The arrival of bold challenger brands in Australia’s electric vehicle (EV) market is starting to ease one of the key pain points for aspiring EV owners: price. In fact, a round-up of some of the nation’s cheapest electric cars reveals that 2023 could be the turning point for EV ownership.
When Chinese manufacturer BYD launched their Dolphin electric car in June 2023, it became the cheapest electric car available in Australia at that time.1 The price tag for the Dolphin Dynamic model sat at just under $40,000 (excluding driveaway costs).1
Speaking to Australian Associated Press (AAP), Behyad Jafari, Electric Vehicle Council Chief Executive Officer, said he thought it was only a matter of time before the price of electric cars dropped even further.2
"Whether it’s this car or another, we are seeing electric vehicle prices fall," Jafari said. "It won’t be long before we see electric vehicles in the $30,000 price ranges, and we saw sales pick up pretty quickly when $40,000 electric vehicles became available.”2
Why should I buy an electric car?
Around the world, government incentives have been established to support the adoption of plug-in EVs – and Australia is no exception.
Richard Blackburn, National Motoring Editor for News Corp, says federal government incentives including Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemptions for fleets and novated leases could make electric cars comparable in price to equivalent petrol cars for some buyers.
“The FBT exemption effectively means a $70,000 electric vehicle will cost the same over a four-year lease term as a $40,000 petrol vehicle,” Blackburn explains. “It’s had a huge impact for buyers at that end of the market.”
In New South Wales, buyers pay no stamp duty on electric cars under $78,000 (a saving of $3,000)3 while in Victoria, reduced stamp duty rates apply and EV drivers receive a $100 registration discount each year.4 In Queensland, households earning less than $180,000 per year are eligible for a rebate of up to $6000 for EVs priced at up to $68,000.5
Similar incentives apply in other parts of Australia too, so if you want to make your cheap electric car even cheaper, check with your local state or territory government for more details. It’s also worth investigating the cost of car insurance for EVs, particularly inclusions such as roadside assistance (standard for EV customers with Youi’s Comprehensive Car Insurance policies).6
When are cheap electric cars likely to hit the mass market?
While electric cars might be getting cheaper, the upfront cost of many EV models to motorists is not comparable with traditional petrol or diesel cars…yet.
Globally, forecasts are for EVs to potentially reach upfront price parity with equivalent combustion (petrol or diesel) vehicles by the end of the decade, with some regions including Europe forecast to reach parity as early as 2025.7
“We’re heading that way in Australia but it will take a little more time,” says Blackburn. “Right now, we’re looking at three electric cars hovering around the $40,000 mark, which is a lot more affordable than electric cars ever have been in the past.”
What brand has the cheapest electric cars in Australia?
As of July 2023, the Australian market offers an impressive array of 91 electric car, van and ute models.8
But despite this vast selection, sales figures reveal that just three models dominated the first half of 2023, constituting a substantial 68% market share8 – the Tesla Model Y, Tesla Model 3, and BYD Atto 3.9, 10, 11
Tesla is undoubtedly the most well-known electric car brand but with its entry-level Model 3 priced from $61,900, it’s far from the cheapest.10 There is also debate around which electric car is the best.
“There’s a big push coming from Chinese manufacturers, notably BYD, MG and GWM, who all have electric cars available under $42,000,” says Blackburn. “The introduction of these brands to the local market has certainly shaken things up.”
What are the top 10 cheapest electric cars in Australia?
A look at manufacturers’ websites reveals that, as of August 2023, 10 of the cheapest electric cars in Australia are:12
- BYD Dolphin from $38,89013
- MG 4 from $40,70914
- GWM Ora from $41,04515
- MG ZS EV from $45,70916
- BYD Atto 3 from $48,01111
- Tesla Model 3 from $57,31410
- Nissan LEAF from $53,55017
- Fiat 500e18 from $55,57919
- Cupra Born from $62,49020
- Mini Electric from $71,18521
Are electric cars cheaper in the long run?
While the upfront cost of many electric cars might not yet be comparable to petrol or diesel cars, EVs can be significantly cheaper to run. According to the NSW Government, EV owners can benefit from fuel savings of up to 70% and maintenance savings of around 40%.22
For drivers who travel 13,700km per year, this could potentially mean $1,000 in fuel savings, according to the NSW Government.22 Meanwhile, since EVs lack features of petrol cars that can prove expensive – such as exhaust systems, starter motors, fuel injection systems and radiators – it’s possible to save even more on servicing.
Public charging stations such as those operated by Evie or Chargefox charge between 40-65 cents per kWh for ultra-fast charging (up to 350kW).23, 24 According to WhichCar?, this equates to around $26 for 10-80% charge on a 57.5kWh usable battery such as that in the Tesla Model Y.25, 9
Blackburn says using home rooftop solar to power your car or choosing a green electricity plan could help you save even more while maximising the environmental benefits of an EV.
While we’ve helped narrow down the 10 cheapest electric cars in Australia as of September 2023, this is subject to change – and all signs point to change for the better. Not only are a number of factors contributing to more competitively priced EVs hitting our roads, but the influx of new models means Australian drivers have ever-more options to drive sustainably in style.
Note: Information in this article is relevant as of September 2023 and by its nature will change over time. Check relevant vehicle manufacturer websites for price and specification updates if this information is important to you.
Article by guest writer Chelsea Spresser
1 Source: Drive – Electric-car price war
2 Source: The West Australian – Why brands are driving down the price of electric cars
3 Source: NSW Government – No stamp duty payable on electric vehicle purchases
4 Source: Vic Government – Hybrid or electric vehicle registration discounts
5 Source: Queensland Government – Queensland Zero Emission Vehicle Rebate Scheme
6 Available with Comprehensive policies. Exclusions, limits and additional fees may apply. For more details, see the T&Cs and Car PDS
7 Source: Bloomberg – Hyperdrive Daily: The EV Price Gap Narrows
8 Source: Electric Vehicle Council – State of Electric Vehicles July 2023
9 Source: Tesla – Model Y
10 Source: Tesla – Model 3
11 Source: BYD – Atto 3
12 Note that these prices are subject to change and are based on each manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the lowest-priced variant, quoted for postcode 2000, and may not include costs such as stamp duty, other government charges and options.
13 Source: BYD – Dolphin
14 Source: MG – MG4
15 Source: GWM – Ora
16 Source: MG ZS EV
17 Source: Nissan – LEAF
18 Source: Fiat – Fiat 500e
19 Source: Fiat – Price Calculator
20 Source: Cupra – Born
21 Source: Mini – Electric Vehicles
22 Source: NSW Government – Why buy an Electric Vehicle?
23 Source: Evie – How much does charging cost?
24 Source: Chargefox – EV Facts
25 Source: WhichCar? – Evie networks up EV charging prices again