The nation’s first electric ute has arrived – but the $93,000 vehicles come with a string of major flaws that experts say will well and truly turn normally ute-mad Aussies off.
Chinese automaker LDV’s eT60 electric ute – a dual-cab two-wheel drive with a 330km range and one-tonne towing capacity – comes with a $92,990 price tag, plus on-road costs.
It’s currently touring the country with Solar Citizens, a community organisation committed to renewable energy and transport in Australia.
Solar Citizens national director Heidi Lee Douglas said the tour was designed to show the nation – including politicians – “the many cost-saving benefits that electric vehicles can bring to the regions”, and to push for stronger fuel efficiency standards.
“Fixing fuel efficiency standards would mean more fuel efficient cars would be sent to Australia by car companies, including a much better diversity of electric vehicles, like more EV utes,” she said.
However, LDV’s eT60 comes at almost double the cost of the top two best-selling vehicles in the country, the Toyota HiLux and the Ford Ranger, and comes with several drawbacks that will make it far less attractive to key demographics.
Australian Automotive Dealer Association chief executive James Voortman told news.com.au that while the arrival of the eT60 was a milestone, he didn’t expect they would sell like hot cakes.
“It’s obviously very exciting. Australians love their utes and they have loved their utes for a very long time, so it’s pretty significant to have the first electric ute on the market and hopefully it will be the first of many in the coming years and decades,” he said.
“But I think with this particular vehicle, people will be looking at things like affordability and practicality and to be frank, it’s a hugely expensive ute. At almost $93,000, it’s almost double what you’d pay for a base level Ranger or HiLux.
“It’s very expensive, and it also doesn’t qualify for the fringe benefit tax discount … because it exceeds the luxury car tax threshold, so affordability will be a challenge.”
He said the fact the vehicle was not a 4WD, along with its limited range and eye-watering price tag, would make it less attractive to farmers and tradies, two groups that traditionally flock to utes.
“Tradies will be looking at the practical issues – it’s not a 4WD and it has a range issue – and you’re further restricted by the towing and carrying load,” he said.
“For farmers, there’s the issue of distance and also the issue that a lot do have quite rugged terrain they have to negotiate on their properties, so the fact it’s not a 4WD could work against them.
“A lot of farmers do have very capable 4WDs [already] so it’s something farmers do have to take into account when they are making a decision about whether to make the move to an electric vehicle.”
But Mr Voortman said the vehicles might be snapped up by certain companies.
“I don’t think too many people will be buying this ute privately,” he said.
“But you might see some fleet buyers involved, such as mining companies or other operations that run big fleets, who want to start preparing for the electric transition.”
Earlier this month, electricity giant Transgrid launched the network’s electric ute trial of the 2023 LDV eT60 as part of the company’s commitment to reach net zero by 2040, including “eliminating all emissions from our passenger and commercial fleet by 2030”.
But Mr Voortman said he believed that overall, “there will be a fairly modest number of people purchasing this ute relative to the number of people who buy utes”.
That sentiment was echoed by Drive.com.au’s managing editor Trent Nikolic, who recently told 2GB’s Ben Fordham the “ridiculous” $93,000 price tag, and the ute’s limited capabilities, would be a major turn-off.
“LDV quotes the range of that vehicle as 330km. Now if that battery pack was in a car it’d be about 500km, so it’s already reduced, because the ute weighs 3-tonnes, then if you go anywhere near its tow rating or load capacity you halve it, so there’ll be tradies driving to sites … who are thinking, ‘What good is a dual cab going to be for me today if I get 150km out of it?’” he said.
However, while there are a number of major cons for the eT60, there is a huge appetite for electric vehicles generally in Australia.
In fact, a third of Australians would consider a hybrid or electric vehicle for their next car, according to research from Finder, which found 34 per cent of us would consider saying goodbye to petrol.
Volatile petrol prices are the reason 13 per cent want to ditch conventional cars, equating to 2.6 million drivers considering switching to electric because of surging petrol prices.
Another 21 per cent would consider making the switch because it’s better for the environment, while 4 per cent say they already drive a hybrid or electric car.
Many Aussies are still sceptical about electric cars, however, with 26 per cent saying they are too expensive and 7 per cent saying charging stations are few and far between, while another 14 per cent say they simply prefer conventional cars.
Finder car insurance expert Gary Hunter said opting for an electric vehicle was a smart way to save on petrol while doing your part for the environment.
“They are starting to replace conventional cars as we make the inevitable shift towards more sustainable fuel sources,” he said.
“Australia is behind other countries like New Zealand when it comes to EV adoption, but Aussies are slowly getting on board.
“Whether you’re going electric or sticking with conventional cars, comparing car insurance policies is one of the best ways to save money on the road.”