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What are electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are cars or other vehicles that are propelled by motors that are powered by electricity, unlike traditional internal combustion engine vehicles that use liquid fuels.

There are currently four main types of EVs:

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs): These vehicles are fully-electric, meaning they are solely powered by electricity and do not have a petrol, diesel or LPG engine, fuel tank or exhaust pipe. BEVs are also known as ‘plug-in’ EVs as they use an external electrical charging outlet to charge the battery.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs): These vehicles are powered by a combination of fuel and electricity. They can be charged with electricity using a plug but also contain an internal combustion engine that uses liquid fuel.
  • Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs): These vehicles use a fuel cell instead of a battery, or in combination with a battery or supercapacitor, to power their electric motors. FCEVs are typically fueled by hydrogen
  • Non-plug-in hybrid EVs (HEVs). Instead of using an external plug to charge the vehicle, the electricity generated by the HEV’s braking system is used to recharge the battery. This is called ‘regenerative braking’.

Electric vehicles in Australia

Although the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia does not match that of other developed countries, the number of EVs is expected to grow as cheaper models and charging infrastructure roll out.

ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation published the Australian Electric Vehicle Market Study Report (PDF 285KB) by Energeia that looked at how many EVs could be used in Australia in future, along with any barriers to them being adopted. According to the report, EVs are expected to match petrol cars on both price and range by the mid 2020s, and once they reach this price parity with internal combustion engine cars, new car sales of EVs could be expected to rapidly increase.

Internationally, sales of electric vehicles are accelerating much faster, with more than five million EVs sold worldwide. According to Bloomberg’s Global Electrified Transport Market Outlook, close to two million EVs were sold in 2018, representing 3.2 per cent of total passenger vehicle sales in the main markets. Bloomberg expect another 2.7 million to be sold in 2019.

ARENA action

ARENA’s purpose is to accelerate Australia’s shift to affordable and reliable renewable energy. By connecting investment, knowledge and people to deliver energy innovation, we are helping to build the foundation of a renewable energy ecosystem in Australia.

Due to ARENA’s focus on renewable energy, we provide funding support for EV projects only where renewable energy is clearly used to ‘fuel’ the vehicles or to demonstrate technologies or processes that assist the integration of renewable energy.

ARENA has supported several projects involving EVs and renewable energy, including consumer tools and ultra-fast charging infrastructure, that could help to overcome barriers to uptake.

> Explore the EV projects supported by ARENA

Knowledge sharing

ARENA shares knowledge, insights and data from our funded projects to help the renewable energy industry and other projects learn from each other’s experiences. Our projects capture high-quality quantitative and qualitative data and information, linked with the needs of the market, while respecting our recipients’ commercial and contractual rights.

Reports from our EV projects can be found in the ARENA Knowledge Bank.

Last updated 22 July 2019
Last updated
22 July 2019


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