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The myth that the typical electric car driver lives in a leafy inner-city suburb is busted, with the outer suburbs zooming past the cities in sales.

The latest data from the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC), obtained by the ABC, shows the biggest increase in orders for popular electric vehicle (EV) brands last year came from outer-suburban areas.

The data covers sales from the two biggest electric car companies, Elon Musk’s Tesla and Chinese-owned BYD, which account for three-quarters of all EV sales, according to the council.

Overall, about 43 per cent of electric cars sold by the car companies last year went to people in outer-metropolitan suburbs, compared to 39 per cent sold in inner-metropolitan areas, as petrol price hikes drove more people to switch to electric.

Experts believe the high rates of rooftop solar and access to off-street parking in the suburbs are also factors behind this trend.

Rouse Hill and Kellyville, in Sydney’s north-west, topped the list of suburbs for EV sales last year with 531 orders.

In Victoria, Werribe in Melbourne’s outer south-west had 429 new electric cars delivered by the car manufacturers.

Nearly 18 per cent of all EV orders came from regional and rural Australia.

CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council Beyhad Jafari said these latest numbers debunked a stereotype in Australia of who was driving electric cars.

“We had more people buying electric vehicles from Blacktown than in Bondi,” he said.

“EVs are not novel. They are a suburban, mainstream Australian reality and that trend is only set to continue.”

The rising cost of running a petrol car is behind the shift to electric, according to Mr Jafari.

“When we ask people today why they bought an electric vehicle … the number one reason they give back is being able to avoid high fuel bills,” he said.

“So although the initial cost of buying an electric car is higher than a petrol car, the running costs are significantly lower.”

‘Ridiculously’ cheap commute

That’s the case for Nanda Nalluri, an emergency services worker living on the Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne.

Since switching to an electric car a year ago, he has driven more than 37,000 kilometres, mostly commuting for work.

“I’m basically saving, between petrol and servicing, $5,500 to $6,000 a year,” he told the ABC.

“I’m doing easily a 100-kilometre round trip for just a shift, and sometimes it goes up to 200km. Over a week, I can easily do 700km.”

Mr Nalluri had been interested in switching to an EV to lower his transport costs and reduce his environmental impact but said it only made sense economically as EV prices came down in recent years.

He worked out that he had saved “thousands and thousands” on petrol costs and servicing compared to running his old car, as EVs required less maintenance.

A man charging an electric vehicle

Nanda Nalluri, who lives on the Mornington Peninsula, switched to an electric car a year ago.(Jo Lauder)

“I had a sedan that would get 6.5-7 litres per 100 kilometres. For 100 kilometres, it was $10-15 for our petrol car,” he said.

He is now on an electricity plan that offers a special EV-charging deal, with the cheapest prices in the early hours of the morning, and free power in the middle of the day when there are high levels of solar power in the grid.

“With the deal that I’m on with the electric company, it’s about $1.20 for 100 kilometres [to charge], so you’re talking easily like a 10-times saving effectively,” he said.

“I can do my entire work commute for like five to 10 bucks a week … it’s ridiculously cheap.”

With solar on his roof, and cheap electricity, Mr Nalluri only uses his driveway charger to fill up the car.

“It’s now a point of pride that I’ve never had to use a supercharger. So, I’m 35-40,000 kilometres in [having the EV] and never had to use charging outside of my house,” he said.

He said he was not surprised that he was part of a bigger trend of outer metropolitan residents shifting to electric.

“A lot of friends in outer metro area have jumped on the EVs as well for the exact same reason, especially if they do similar kilometres to me,” he said.

“They all look at the maths and it’s just overwhelmingly clear.”

The average capital city household spent 17 per cent of its income on transport in the December quarter, according to Australian Automobile Association data released last week.

Swinburne University’s professor of future urban mobility, Hussein Dia, said cost-of-living pressures on commuters were pushing people in outer metropolitan areas like Mr Nalluri to switch to EVs.

“People in outer suburbs usually tend to travel more, and public transport is not as convenient or is not as available as in inner city areas,” he said.

A man stands in front of a presentation looking down at the camera.

Professor Hussein Dia says living in the outer suburbs lends itself to owning an electric car.(Supplied)

“So people in outer suburbs would rely on cars, and the more they travel, the petrol bill is going to be higher,” he said.

Convenience of charging at home

Where to charge your car is a serious consideration when switching to electric, and experts believe it was also a factor playing into these latest EV uptake figures.

Professor Hussein Dia said the types of houses in outer metropolitan areas made it easier for people to switch to an electric car.

“People in inner suburbs might hesitate or might say, ‘where am I going to charge it, I live in an apartment?'” he said.

“But most people in the outer suburbs, they have either a townhouse, a driveway or a house, which makes it easier to charge. And if they own a house, or if they’re renting a house that has rooftop solar panels, they use that to charge their vehicles.”

According to a recent Grattan Institute report, most Australian homes are suited to at-home charging.

Ballarat's growing outer suburbs

Most houses in outer metropolitan areas offer easy charging facilities for electric cars.(News Video)

“Nearly two-thirds of Australian households with a car live in a detached or semi-detached home, and 95 per cent of those homes have off-street parking,” the report stated.

However, it found that places where residents might have trouble accessing charging – apartments and homes without parking – were more likely to be in the inner city.

“In Melbourne, about 5 per cent of houses do not have off-street parking. Such houses are disproportionately located in inner suburbs, where public transport is generally good,” the Grattan report read.

The EV Council’s Beyhad Jafari agreed, saying access to at-home charging was encouraging people in outer suburban areas to buy EVs.

Beyhad Jafari sitting in the driver's seat of a car, looking out the window into the camera.

Electric Vehicle Council CEO Beyhad Jafari says EVs are an Australian reality growing in popularity.(ABC News: Chris Taylor)

“With electric vehicles, something like 80-90 per cent of charging happens at your home,” he said.

“You can get the cheapest recharging if you’re able to park your car on a driveway and plug it into your home’s electricity.

“As we get out to the outer suburbs, places like [Melbourne suburbs] Blacktown and Rouse Hill with really great high levels of uptake that occurred last year, more people have access to standalone homes that have access to off-street parking.”

Mr Jafari said EVs were also attractive to people who already have solar.

“Australia has some of the greatest rates of rooftop solar uptake in the entire world. And for a lot of homes, they’re actually making more solar than they’re using,” he said.

A Hyundai Kona electric vehicle on the Nullarbor Plains.

More than 87,000 electric cars were sold in Australia in 2023.(Supplied: Krishna Sen)

As more EV models become available to Australians, and the push to reduce Australia’s transport emissions continues, the EV Council is confident Australia will soon be on par with the rest of the world.

Last month, EVs made up 9.6 per cent of new cars sold in Australia, according to data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

“We’ve been doubling electric vehicle sales in Australia. Globally, that number is closer to about 20 per cent. So Australia’s still got a lot of catching up to do, but we are doing that catching up very quickly,” Mr Jafari said.

What are electric car sales like where you live?

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