Australian drivers have gotten behind the wheel of almost 57,000 new electric vehicles this year, most of them made by a single company.
American car manufacturer Tesla dominates low-emission transport in Australia, with more than 57% of the market.
But a growing number of car brands are emerging to challenge Tesla’s lead, most of which are new names to Australian buyers and only produce electric cars.
More and more electric vehicle brands are entering the Australian electric vehicle market, dominated by American car manufacturer Tesla (pictured) which has almost 60% of the market share.
Experts say the companies not only help popularize more environmentally friendly vehicles, but also help expand choices, lower prices and encourage traditional car brands to evolve before policies change.
BYD is among the most aggressive new car brands, this week opening the first of three planned “megastores” in Australia that showcase its range of electric vehicles and the technology behind it.
The brand will also attempt to set a record for the “world’s largest electric vehicle test drive” in Australia on September 23.
Luke Todd, managing director of EVDirect which represents BYD, says the brand has been criticized for its aggressive campaigns and “maverick” attitude, but that this approach is paying off.
“We face a lot of criticism, but we will stay strong and move forward,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t want things to change.”
BYD launched its first electric vehicle, the Atto 3, in Australia last August and this year claimed the title of the country’s second most popular electric car brand, with more than 8,000 models sold in 2023.
The company recently launched the sub-$40,000 Dolphin electric sedan in Australia and, according to Mr Todd, would add more cars to its range in 2024.
“We have five models that will be on the market by the end of next year,” he says.
“We believe we will be in a very important position and continually challenge…the automotive industry.”
Another new brand, LDV, this week revealed plans to introduce larger battery-powered vehicles to Australia, including a more powerful electric vehicle with a 600km range and an electric van called the eDeliver 7.
The new vehicles could compete with an electric sports car from MG and the first electric SUV from Swedish company Polestar, scheduled for launch in 2024.
Luke Todd (pictured), managing director of EVDirect which represents BYD, says the company’s “maverick” marketing approach has paid off as more Australians start to take notice of their cars.
Australian Electric Vehicle Association national president Chris Jones says it’s no coincidence many of the new brands are from China, the world’s largest car market, where they could experiment with vehicle concepts and export the ones that work best.
Emerging brands also don’t need to fund internal combustion engine manufacturing, he says, or wait for Australia to introduce laws to encourage them to deliver electric cars.
“They are right to fill the gap for alternative car brands in Australia – they are not waiting for policies to change,” Dr Jones said.
“Volkswagen boss says he will only sell electric vehicles in the Australian market if there are policy changes.”
Dr Jones says many of the first electric vehicles launched in Australia were SUVs and there was a huge opportunity for emerging brands to expand the types of cars available to local drivers.
“We want to see more electric vans, utility vehicles and sedans,” he said.
“We’re already seeing a plethora of (Toyota) HiLux ute conversions, so if LDV can come up with good quality electric vans and utes, they’ll knock them out of the park.”
BYD launched its first electric vehicle, the Atto 3, in Australia last August and won the title of the country’s second most popular electric car brand.
Hussein Dia, professor of future urban mobility at Swinburne University, says the emergence of new car manufacturers in the local market is also putting pressure on the price of entry for electric vehicles.
He said most of the first electric cars launched in Australia were in the luxury price bracket.
“We hope these new competitors will be competitive in lower price segments,” he said.
“Tesla prices are still out of reach for some people.”
The cost of the company’s entry-level car, the Model 3, recently increased to $61,900.
Professor Dia says Tesla is likely to retain an early advantage in Australia, but a fuel efficiency standard, promised as part of the federal government’s national electric vehicle strategy, would help well-known carmakers justify the introducing more electric models to Australia.
Experts say new entrants to the electric vehicle market are putting pressure on brands like Tesla as the automaker’s cars are still relatively expensive – the price of the Model 3 recently rose to $61,900.
The standard would set an emissions cap for a company’s vehicle fleet and fine those who exceed it.
“Some brands consider the Australian market too small and will send their electric vehicles elsewhere until there are constraints in the local market,” Professor Dia said.
“With an energy efficiency standard in place, companies will ship more variety and more inventory.”
ELECTRIC VEHICLE BRANDS ON THE RISE IN AUSTRALIA
BYD: This Chinese company has become Australia’s second largest electric vehicle brand following the release of its Atto 3 SUV and will further target the market with a smaller vehicle, the Dolphin, and the upcoming release of a sports sedan, the Seal .
VLD: The carmaker became the first to launch an electric vehicle in Australia last year and announced other utility vehicles would follow, including the eDeliver 7 electric van and a more powerful vehicle, the Maxus, in 2024.
MG engine: The popular Chinese brand attracted a lot of attention this year with the release of its sub-$40,000 MG4 and is expected to launch an electric sports car, the Cyberster, in 2024.
The North Star: This Swedish brand linked to Volvo launched a more advanced version of its Polestar 2 electric sedan in Australia this year and will follow its release with the Polestar 3 SUV in 2024.
Cupra: Currently the 10th largest electric car manufacturer in Australia, this Spanish brand, part of the Volkswagen group, attracted attention this year with its Cupra Born fully electric sedan.