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Home Road Trip Auto website CarExpert’s Sydney-Melbourne road trip reveals the shocking truth about whether EVs are cheaper to run than petrol cars

Auto website CarExpert’s Sydney-Melbourne road trip reveals the shocking truth about whether EVs are cheaper to run than petrol cars

by Staff

By David Southwell For Daily Mail Australia

05:59 17 Jan 2024, updated 08:11 17 Jan 2024

A long-range road test of equivalent electric and petrol-fuelled vehicles has revealed the surprising result that the conventional car was cheaper to run.

Over a 900km drive from Sydney to Melbourne conducted by auto website CarExpert, the electric vehicle cost around $13 more to power than its petrol counterpart – as well as needing two hours extra stopping time to replenish.

This result echoes the findings of another auto journalist who recently calculated that driving petrol and electric cars on the almost 300km three-hour trip from Sydney to Canberra was also cheaper with the combustion model. 

CarExpert founder Paul Maric drove, who drove the EV, said they just weren’t practical for Australian road trips. 

‘If you are charging at home and driving in and around the city an electric car is always going to be the better option but certainly for road trips it’s probably not the type of vehicle I wouldn’t have on the bucket list,’ he said. 

For the Sydney to Melbourne comparison CarExpert picked up a new electric BMW 740i and the similarly-sized petrol-fuelled BMW i7 M70, which cost $344,900 and $272,900 respectively. 

For the Sydney to Melbourne comparison CarExpert picked up a new electric BMW 740i and the similarly-sized petrol-fuelled BMW i7 M70

READ MORE: I drove an electric car from Sydney to Melbourne. This is what I learned about using EVs in a country as large and unforgiving as Australia – and what you need to know before buying one

Setting off and arriving together, the vehicles were driven in a near identical manner to make the comparison fair, with both starting fully fuelled.

Travelling at the same speed both had the air conditioning and cooled seats running. 

The vehicles had two major refueling stops and a shorter one for a coffee break on the epic trip, which takes around nine hours non-stop.

At the stops the EV used the fastest charger available while the petrol car used premium fuel. 

However, there was a snag because the trip occurred on November 8, the day the Optus network crashed around Australia.

This threatened to make the Evie network – which was the charging source at the first stop in the NSW southern town of Tarcutta – unworkable because Optus connection was needed for mobile authentication to make payment. 

Thankfully after an anxious few minustes Mr Maric, who was driving the i7, got his payment accepted. 

Mr Maric was also alarmed his car had only 2 per cent charge left when it reached Tarcutta, which was around 110km short of the estimated range the vehicle had predicted for a full charge. 

‘We chose to stop at Tarcutta because it was only around 450km from where we started so we thought we would comfortably make it there.’ Mr Maric said.

The car had predicted he could travel 574km on the full charge but that had failed to account for the elevation from Melbourne to Tarcutta. 

‘You are driving predominantly uphill and the second you have that elevation change you have a reduction in range which in this case was 20 per cent,’ Mr Maric said.

This uncertainty about range meant Mr Maric said he would not attempt a road trip longer than an hour in an EV.

‘My advice to people who want to take a road trip is leave the electric vehicle at home and rent a car if you are going a long distance,’ he said

‘When it comes Christmas time my wife’s Tesla stays parked at home and we take our other petrol vehicle.

‘I don’t want to get stuck at a charger, I don’t want to have the anxieties of running out especially if my wife and two-year-old in the car because I will get divorced.

‘I personally wouldn’t want to have my family on a road trip where I had to rely on public charger infrastructure because it would be very expensive and the reliability is a big question mark.’  

Over the three stops the BMW i7 spent two hours and eight minutes charging while  the 740i only took around six minutes in total to refuel.

The major surprise came at the end when Mr Maric calculated the i7 consumed 203.03kWh of energy, costing $131.92, while the 740i gulped down 56.16 litres of fuel at a total cost of $117.88. 

This mean the electric car had an economy rate of just over 20kWh/100km, while the internal combustion car consumed around 6 litres for every 100km. 

For the 900km trip between Sydney and Melbourne, the BMW i7 M70 took over two hours of stopping time to recharge

Mr Maric also noted that since doing the trip Evie had increased its prices. 

‘Electricity prices have never come down so it is only going to become more and more expensive,’ Mr Maric said. 

‘EVs are lovely to drive but there are a lot of these risks that people don’t think about.

‘If you just think of the average Australian at the moment who is just struggling to put food on the table you talking about a vehicle like the Tesla model Y that starts at $70,000, regardless of what the tax incentives are that’s still a big chunk of money.

‘They want everyone to be driving these things but ultimately they just aren’t affordable.’

Veteran automotive expert John Cadogan reached a similar conclusion in a YouTube posted on Tuesday titled ‘Recharging an electric vehicle now costs more than petrol…’

‘If you are dependent on public chargers the electrons for your EV just got more expensive than actual liquid fuel for an equivalent conventional car,’ Cadogan said.

‘This is madness.’ 

Veteran automotive journalist John Cadogan said he had ‘crunched the numbers’ on the price of driving similar petrol and electric vehicles between Sydney and Canberra

Cadogan said he had ‘crunched the numbers on a simple road trip of 300km using a Mazda 3 versus a Tesla Model 3 and it’s definitely cheaper to drive the Mazda from Canberra to Sydney’.

This was largely because Evie recently hiked its price by 43 per cent depending on the size and speed of the charger. 

The result was that using the 150kw Evie charger cost 68 cents per kilowatt hour, when by comparison the average NSW household pays just over 30 cents per kilowatt hour for power from the grid.

According to Cadogan, charging a Tesla model 3 to make the 300km trip to Canberra takes 40 minutes and 60kw of power, which would be enough to run the average home for four days with a charger cost of $40.80.

Meanwhile a Mazda 3 GT with a two and a half litre engine uses about 7lt every 100km for highway travel, which means it would require $37.80 of premium E10 fuel to make the Sydney to Canberra run.

Charging company Evie recently announced a price hike, which has hit EV users hard

Cadogan admitted charging an electric car remains cheaper if it can be done at home but he said for many EV owners in the inner city, with no off-street parking, this was not possible.

‘This kind of upward trajectory – some would say extortion – is a snapshot of what the electric utopia of the future is going to look like,’ Cadogan said. 

‘It’s almost impossible to break even financially with an EV considering the equivalent combustion car has such a preposterous start on acquisition cost. 

‘It is flat out impossible to break even if you are forced to park out on the street and therefore at the mercy of six-month price hikes.’

Cadogan believed this largely punctured the myth that EVs are cheaper, although he admitted this had always seemed to him a strange reason to buy one.

‘It seems quite odd to me to pay $20,000 more upfront for an EV compared with the cost of an equivalent combustion car if your sole objective is to save money on fuel or anything else,’ he said.

‘If you have 40,000 or more to spend on a car, you can afford the fuel.’  

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