A recent report On the carbon emission intensity of new light vehicles sold in Australia, it was found that emissions fell by only 2% in 2021, despite the tripling of electric vehicle sales.
Of the best-selling models in Australia, seven of the top 10 were even larger vehicles or SUVs.
It’s fair to say that Australians have a love affair with big polluting cars, and that’s hindering Australia’s overall emissions improvements. It is also encouraged by tax breaks that encourage people to take double taxis.
“Australia transport emissions have already increased by about 22% between 2005 and 2019, and we are on track [in] 2030 to ensure transportation emissions are still above 2005 levels,” said Jake Whitehead, head of policy at the Electric Vehicle Council.
“While every other sector is expected to contribute to a 43% reduction [to meet Australia’s Paris agreement targets] transport emissions will be higher. That means farmers, manufacturers, miners, industry, energy [and] every other sector will have to take that burden off the transport and cut even further in their sectors because we didn’t act fast enough.”
“There are now about 45 electric vehicles available in Australia, so there are a lot of them that will suit people … but it won’t suit everyone because we don’t have that greater range.”
“To get that greater range, we need a fuel efficiency standard so we can bring all types of electric vehicles into the country for all types of lifestyles and businesses.”
So what are the alternatives, if any?
Here we take a look at the 10 best-selling vehicles in Australia in 2021 and comparable electric and hybrid models available.
Best Selling Vehicles and Alternatives
1. Toyota HiLux – 52,801 sold – from $24,225 – emissions: 182g/km (combined city/highway)
There is currently no direct replacement for the Toyota HiLux on the market, in part because Toyota has lagged behind other manufacturers in electrification and opted for hybrids instead. The next-generation HiLux range is expected to have a hybrid option when released in 2023. That is not to say that there are no electrical appliances: both the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150 Lightning are both good electrical alternatives, but are not yet available in Australia.
2. Ford Ranger – 50,279 sold – from $29,190 – 210g/km
Ford is leading the way in commercial vehicle electrification with the Ford F-150 Lightning. There are rumors that it is working on a EV version of the Ranger but any move on this will take years. In the meantime, the Rivian R1T is another alternative, but it’s unlikely to go on sale until 2024. If size is not your priority, ACE EV, owned by the Australian company, takes reservations for the ACE Yewt.
3. Toyota RAV4 – 35,751 sold – $34,400 – 137g/km
The good news is that in the mid-sized SUV market, lower emissions options are already available in the Australian market, with more to come. From the RAV4, a hybrid version is available starting at $40,450 (107 g/km). Toyota has been working on an all-electric mid-sized SUV, the bZ4X, which will hit the market in Australia in 2023, with expected prices around $70k. Hyundai has released the Kona Electric with a range of 484 km and a starting price of approximately $57,429 and Chinese automaker BYD has released the Atto 3 electric SUV.
4. Toyota Corolla – 28,768 sold – from $25,395 – 81g/km
The Toyota Corolla is the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the Top 10 with emissions of 81 g/km. Finding a lower-emission alternative is easier in the small to medium-sized car category. A new Nissan Leaf starts at $50,990, but a used one can be picked up for around $20,000. Another alternative is the Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback when it lands in 2024 or 2025.
5. Toyota Landcruiser – 26,633 sold – from $60,830 – 250g/km
The Toyota Landcruiser is a beast of a vehicle and one that many Australian farmers and other primary producers rely on. Still, many are used to taking short trips through the suburbs. If this describes you, the best option is to swap it for something smaller, as it’s currently the most polluting on the list. If you trust one for serious work, there are no exact matches in EV models – although there are companies that make electrical calls. It is rumored that Toyota is working on a hydrogen-powered V8 engine for the Landcruiser, which would eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, but NOx emissions could still be a problem.
6. Hyundai i30 – 25,575 sold – from $25,990 – 157g/km
The Hyundai IONIQ Electric is a good replacement option, albeit with a higher price tag of $49,970. Others in the Volkswagen range, including the ID.4 and ID.5 electric SUVs, may also serve as a good alternative when they are introduced at the end of 2023. When in doubt, there is also the KIA Niro Electric Vehicle in the compact SUV market.
7. Isuzu Ute D-MAX – 25,117 sold – from $64,990 – 190g/km
Again, there aren’t any great out-of-the-box options, but if you’re in the market for an EV ute, try the Rivian R1T and the Ford F-150.
8. Mazda CX-5 – 24,968 sold – from $32,390 – 158g/km
Mazda has started releasing their own range of electric vehicles, including the E35 Astina and the MX-30, although they can be a bit pricey. For other brands, the Tesla Model Y is a good alternative.
9. Toyota Prado – 21,299 sold – from $60,830 – 208g/km
The Prado is another offering in Toyota’s extensive 4WD range. In addition to the models already mentioned, the Tesla Model Y might be another good option for those who want something with a little less impact on the environment.
10. Mitsubishi Triton – 19,232 sold – from $41,990 – 204g/km
Mitsubishi is another one of the major automakers that hasn’t been particularly excited about introducing electric vehicles in Australia. The company has instead stuck with its plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Outlander plug-in hybrid. If you’re loyal to the brand and want to get into a cleaner vehicle, this might be the way to go – or you can wait for the other electrical appliances to land in the Australian market.
EV alternatives come at a high price, but in the long and medium term, fuel savings can add up – even if you buy energy from the grid. But if you’re lucky enough to have solar on the roof, you can save even more.
According to Solar Citizens’ fuel saving calculator, the Tesla Model 3 LR is a close match to the Mazda 3 and costs only 22% to charge in a year. Fuel for the Mazda 3 costs about $14.63 per 1ookm, while the charging cost for the Tesla Model 3 LR per 100km is $3.35.
Of course, there are other ways to save on fuel costs and emissions: switching to a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle, or leaving the car for public transport, walking and cycling are all good options. But for now, the love affair with big cars seems to last for a while.
Additional reporting by Royce Kurmelovs