CHOICE magazine seeks to help shoppers navigate the EV experience

The complexity of the calculations behind the efficiency of electric vehicles is highlighted by a recent report by CHOICE magazine. CHOICE is highly regarded in Australia for giving excellent advice to consumers regarding the purchase of products. However, I took issue with what I thought were poorly made assumptions underlying their consumer advice. Check out their report on electric vehicles here.

After leaving my feedback, what followed was a frank and open conversation with Peter Giles, Product Innovation Manager at CHOICE. The article is an exploration of that conversation and is published with permission from CHOICE.

CHOICEPeter Gilles: “Just to clarify – I work on a team that is looking for new ways to engage our audience. We have done research by interviewing many EV owners and also people who are planning to buy an EV soon We found that people planning to buy an electric vehicle wanted more information about running costs, range, charging and batteries, and they also said they wanted a simple guide that provided clear and concise information to help them research the area. We have created an EV Quick Start Guide as an online guide to help them with their research. It’s not really a report as a such, just an attempt to condense the information into an easily accessible guide.

“Also keep in mind that the EV guide is a prototype that we just launched and we’re still collecting user feedback – and we’ll look to update it based on that.”

Let’s take a look at CHOICEthe analysis of. First, operating costs. CHOICE compares a Corolla petrol sedan to an MG ZS EV. It’s not a fair comparison.

CHOICE compared an MG ZS EV to a Toyota Corolla. Photo of David Waterworth | Clean Technica.

CHOICE: “[A] Camry compared to a Model 3 might be a good way to go. It was difficult to decide which EV to benchmark – originally we looked at the Hyundai Kona which has a hybrid, petrol and EV model – but the hybrid isn’t on sale in Australia.

“We went with the MG because it sells well and is affordable, but I understand that so far the Tesla Model 3 is by far the biggest seller of any electric vehicle in Australia – I think a Toyota Camry would probably be the most similar sedan equivalent across hybrid and petrol variants We’ve also had comments that maybe we should have compared ourselves to a larger SUV like a RAV4 – maybe that once Model Y gets the hang of it, we could do that (and I’m sure it would look a lot more EV friendly).”

Next: Gasoline costs are assumed to be 4 times the cost of electricity. I pay 13¢ per kWh at best and 24¢ at worst. CHOICE assumes a cost of 30¢ per kWh. Gasoline now costs $1.80 a litre. Gasoline can cost up to 8 times the cost of electricity.

CHOICE: “With electricity prices, we usually work with 30¢/kWh – once you take into account supply charges etc, it can average that – depending of course on when you use the car. If you paid to charge at a fast charging station, it would be more. Electricity prices are currently rising.

The other assumption I questioned was that they expect you to pay the same amount to maintain an electric vehicle as you would for a gas-powered car – allocating around $300 a year for the maintenance.

CHOICE: “Update taken on maintenance costs – if you have better sources of data than EVENERGI (which provides master data for the NRMA site and EV Council, I would appreciate any recommendations – we have used their data for vehicles from reference.

“I think our choice of cars may have influenced that as well because Toyotas are quite cheap to maintain (compared to a Mercedes for example). Apparently the Electric Vehicle Council estimates that petrol cars cost around £7 ¢ per km in maintenance costs, while electric vehicles cost around 2¢ per km in comparison. Do you think that would be a fairer comparison for us? From what I understand, electric vehicles cost a little more expensive for the tires because they are heavier.

Information on charging speeds and times seems reasonably accurate. However, I asked for the load to go from 0% to 80%. Most EV drivers don’t drop their car to zero before plugging in.

It’s not a good idea to let your battery drop this low. Photo of David Waterworth | Clean Technica.

CHOICE: “Thanks for your update on charge times – on our range tool we actually estimated 20-80% charge, so maybe for consistency we should update the estimates on the landing page – I will consider updating this on your suggestion.”

Then we come to environmental impact, where the report shows in a graph that an electric car charging from NSW’s current grid produces more carbon dioxide than a hybrid car running on petrol alone. A quick check of the NSW grid shows it is currently running on 40% solar power. So these numbers can’t be true.

The Australian network is greening at a rapid pace, and this needs to be taken into account.

CHOICE: “Finally with the CO2 output we calculated this based on the NSW grid (similar to QLD and VIC) – around 70% of coal power currently according to National Energy and Greenhouse Reporting – 2021 However our modeling takes taking into account the growth of renewables over the next 5 years – a reduction of around 10% in emissions per year in NSW We have included the solar section to highlight the great cost benefits if you are in able to generate your own renewable energy (and recharge during the day).

CHOICE goes on to point out that an EV battery has an 8-year warranty and should be cheaper to replace once that period has passed. The assumption is that an EV battery will degrade 100% within its warranty period. This kind of comment can perpetuate the belief that electric vehicle batteries need to be replaced frequently.

CHOICE: “We usually emphasize how long EV batteries are under warranty – we don’t intend to suggest they will need to be replaced in 8 years, but battery costs will be significantly lower by then.”

It’s great to see a magazine with the quality reputation of CHOICE give advice to those who want to “make the change”. I really appreciated the opportunity to engage with them in a frank and informative conversation. They ask for feedback, what do you think?

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