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Cheapest electric car in Australia

If you’re in a hurry to buy one now, the bargain choice EV is clearly to be found at your BYD or MG dealer.

Ever wondered how much electric cars cost? The good news is that as Electric Vehicles (EVs) slowly but surely rise in popularity, prices are starting to drop, at least a little, thanks to some decent entry-level cheap electric cars finally hitting the market. Thank you, China.

Electric vehicles are many things - fabulously silent, wonderfully free of exhaust pipes and thus zero emission, torque-tastic and thus great fun to drive. Sadly, one thing you wouldn’t describe them as is “cheap”.

But that is rapidly changing, as the past 12 months has proved to be something like a race to the bottom - only in a good way, because we’re talking price - with China’s BYD and MG competing to offer Australia the first electric car that can be considered truly affordable (definitions of that term may vary wildly, of course, because “affordable” used to mean $12,990, or $19,990, but it’s all relative).

So what are Australia’s most affordable electric cars, and will electric vehicles get cheaper in the future?

Or, in short, should you buy now - and start saving the planet - or wait a while, until we have those little niceties, like a larger charging network, and government incentives, the things that help make EVs so popular in enlightened, Nordic countries (EVs made up 90 per cent of all new cars sold in Norway in 2023).

The BYD Dolphin wears a price tag of $38,890. The BYD Dolphin wears a price tag of $38,890.

What is the cheapest electric car in Australia?

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When it comes to the cheapest electric car, Australia has some good options.

It’s a bit of a moving target, though, so it pays to keep checking, because most new players on the market - aside from Tesla - want to be able to claim they have the cheapest electric car motor on the market (or at the least the ‘most affordable’ because carmakers rarely like to refer to their cars as ‘cheap’). 

As we alluded to earlier, it’s BYD and MG that are leading the electric charge on this front, both introducing new models in 2023 that have lowered the bar on price.

The MG4 wears a price tag of $38,990. The MG4 wears a price tag of $38,990.

The MG4 hatch (about the size of a Toyota Corolla) arrived with a price of just $38,990 (plus on-road costs), which undercut its own ZS EV compact SUV

Not to be outdone, BYD announced that its new small car, the Dolphin, would start at $38,890 - beating the MG by just $100.

Just behind these two comes the GWM Ora, which launched in February 2023 at $43,990, which was a competitive price at the time.

The GWM Ora wears a price tag of $39,990. The GWM Ora wears a price tag of $39,990.

But since then the brand has cut the price to $39,990, claiming this was due to a reduction in material costs and not a move to compete with its Chinese counterparts. 

While MG has cut the entry-price for an EV in its line-up, the ZS EV has increased in price in the past 12 months, now starting at $47,337. That puts it just ahead of the BYD Atto 3 at $48,011, as these two Chinese brands battle it out.

Next up is one of the longest running EVs, the Nissan Leaf, which was, at one time, the biggest selling EV on Earth.

The MG ZS EV wears a price tag of $47,337. The MG ZS EV wears a price tag of $47,337.

It, too, has risen in price over the years, and now sits at $50,990, which seems like a lot compared to the newer, cheaper competition from BYD and MG.

Beyond that point, EVs move from ‘affordable’ and into a space that can best be described as ‘least expensive’ instead.

For example, the next ‘cheapest’ car is the Fiat 500e La Prima, which will set you back $52,500, and that is a lot of money for a compact city car - even a stylish one like this little Italian number.

The BYD Atto 3 wears a price tag of $48,011. (Image: Tom White) The BYD Atto 3 wears a price tag of $48,011. (Image: Tom White)

The Hyundai Kona EV currently starts at $54,500, but the new generation model is due in late 2023 and will likely arrive with a price increase. 

Then we move to the $59,990 price point, which is seemingly a spot a lot of brand’s have been aiming for, apparently to say their EV costs ‘less than $60K’ (at least before on-road costs).

At this level you can find EVs as diverse as the Cupra Born hatch, the Volvo EX30 small SUV, the Peugeot e-2008 small SUV and a Peugeot e-Partner delivery van.

 The Nissan Leaf wears a price tag of $50,990. (Image: Glen Sullivan) The Nissan Leaf wears a price tag of $50,990. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

Not that affordability is the biggest factor for most EV buyers in Australia - as Tesla demonstrates. The American marque is by far the most popular EV brand and its cheapest model is the $61,900 Model 3 (although it was $57,400 for much of 2023).

Are Electric Vehicles cheaper overseas?

After making allowances for currency conversion, the simple answer is yes - electric vehicles are cheaper for overseas buyers.

However, the more nuanced answer is that, while cheaper, the arrival of the Dolphin and MG4 have dramatically reduced the difference between us and the rest of the world.

The Fiat 500e wears a price tag of $52,500. The Fiat 500e wears a price tag of $52,500.

For example, in Europe the Dacia Spring is the cheapest genuine electric car (not an electric quadricycle) and it costs €20,800, which directly converts to $34,491 (at the time of publication), which isn’t much cheaper than the BYD and MG.

Another good comparison is the Nissan Leaf, which is priced from $US29,225 in America, and that converts to $45,738, which makes it significantly cheaper than the $50,990 starting price for the Leaf in Australia.

Will EVs get cheaper?

Remember when plasma televisions cost $20,000 a pop, and the early adopters - and the stupidly rich - bought them anyway? And then, within a decade they were a bit passé and you could get one at Bing Lee for $2000?

Well, that’s a bit like the situation with electric vehicles, although the price drops won’t be quite as sharp.

One day, it seems increasingly likely, just about everyone will have one, and the prices will certainly fall as their acceptance grows. 

The Hyundai Kona EV wears a price tag of $54,500. The Hyundai Kona EV wears a price tag of $54,500.

At this stage, EVs are still a small percentage of the Australian car market, and achieving mass - which will certainly be helped by the kind of government incentives implemented overseas, but sadly not yet here, or at least not outside of the ACT - will definitely bring their prices down.

The lack of the kind of subsidies that other countries offer - like cash back, free registration, access to special lanes, free parking, charging stations - might also be a factor. That does, however, all look set to change.

According to a report by industry research firm Energeia, the price and the range of electric vehicles will match petrol-powered cars in Australia within a decade.

The Cupra Born wears a price tag of $59,990. The Cupra Born wears a price tag of $59,990.

As that playing field levels, EV sales will quickly rise, the report predicts, with electric cars making up 100 per cent of new-vehicle sales by the mid 2040s, and reaching price parity with petrol vehicles in the mid-2020s.

Although, with the way petrol-powered cars are rising in price, that day may come sooner than first thought.

In short, you’re going to buy an EV one day, it seems, but it will be a lot cheaper, and possibly more practical, if you wait a while. 

If you’re in a hurry to buy one and start saving the planet now, however, the bargain choice EV is clearly to be found from either BYD or MG.

Top 10 cheapest EVs in Australia

1. BYD Dolphin – $38,890

2. MG4 – $38,990

3. GWM Ora – $39,990

4. MG ZS EV – $47,337

5. BYD Atto 3 – $48,011

6. Nissan Leaf – $50,990

7. Fiat 500e – $52,500

8. Hyundai Kona EV - $54,500

9. Cupra Born – $59,990

10. Peugeot e-2008 & e-Partner – $59,990

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