EVs Face Future Challenges Despite Increasing Uptake

Few Australians are opposed to electric vehicles in principle – but a new transport survey has revealed one key hurdle to widespread uptake.
Professor David Hensher

Professor David Hensher

One in three Australians is considering buying an electric vehicle (EV) within the next five years but price remains a key barrier, according to the latest Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) report.

Conducted in March, the latest biannual Transport Opinion Survey of 1030 Australians revealed four percent own or have ordered an EV, nine percent are thinking of buying one in the next 12 months, and a further 27 percent are considering it in the next five years.

But 44 percent of Australians say they cannot afford an EV, and the remaining 15 percent say they can afford one but are not interested (note: figures have been rounded).

“This survey shows there remains a challenge to improving the affordability of EVs and convincing more than half of Australians they are an alternative to your standard internal combustion engines,” said Professor David Hensher AM, Director of ITLS at the University of Sydney Business School.

“Once the market’s full potential has been reached for those who own, or intend to order, EVs – about 40 percent of the population according to our research – will a further increase in EV uptake halt because of a lack of interest or affordability? It is a question to consider for a sustainable future.”

Weekly working and commuting patterns

Australians on average work from home (WFH) for 22 percent of their working week – about the same as in September 2023. Professionals, community workers and salespeople have increased WFH hours, but managers have reduced them.

Monday and Friday are the most popular days to WFH, and Monday is also the most popular for a hybrid working day. More than two-thirds of workers are in the office for the entire working day on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There is a growing proportion of workers electing to commute outside of peak hours, most noticeably on Thursday, when a slim majority (51 percent) reported commuting during off-peak periods.

This trend is most noticeable in the capital cities, and has a positive impact on easing traffic congestion and saving time.

“The implications for traffic are important since we see increasing commuting in off-peak periods. A good combination of peak and off-peak commuting will improve heavy congestion during peak hours,” Professor Hensher said.

“We anticipate a hybrid working model that supports one-to-two days a week working from home for most capital cities in future.”

Global tensions spark new concerns

The survey also revealed Australians have grown more concerned about law and order, security, and terrorism over the past six months.

The transport survey, conducted for 14 years, includes a general question on what respondents believe are the priority issues in Australia.

When asked to select their two highest priorities, 49 percent chose housing and 41 percent chose employment and the economy – echoing results from the September 2023 survey. The proportion of people selecting housing has plateaued after a steep upward trajectory over the past five surveys.

One in six chose law and order as one of their top priorities, a concern that has risen in popularity for the third consecutive survey.

Security and terrorism also emerged as a top priority for 10 percent of respondents, but far below the peak of 2017 when one in three respondents considered it a top concern.

Public confidence in transport has declined from September 2023 for both near-term and long-term measures for local areas and Australia. However, confidence levels are still higher than those in March 2023.

Professor Hensher said the main issues for transport were increasing pressure on the road system with population growth, and more home deliveries. Respondents on average reported spending $413 monthly online, an increase from the previous two surveys that outstripped inflation.

“Australians are more dissatisfied with conditions on the road. Population growth and changes have put more pressure on the existing road system, which is hardly coping with severe congestion and increasing numbers of vehicles, including large trucks.

“We need to consider multiple mitigation strategies, including public transport and active travel, and controlling travel demand during peak hours through feasible working from home and hybrid work arrangements.”

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