Seven reasons to embrace electric vehicles

UQ researcher Jake Whitehead with electric vehicle

This story was adapted from an article published on The Conversation

Despite the overwhelming evidence that electric vehicle technology can deliver significant economic, environmental and health benefits, misinformation continues to muddy the public debate in Australia.

UQ Telsa

Let’s look at the facts:

1. Lower emissions

Battery electric vehicles have no exhaust emissions. Their emissions are primarily determined by the upstream emissions: that is, from the production and distribution of the energy used to charge them. Electric vehicles in Australia typically generate about 40 per cent fewer emissions than a petrol vehicle.

2. Lower across Australia

Electric vehicle emissions vary depending on how dirty the region’s electricity is. Victoria has the most emissions-intensive grid in Australia due to its reliance on brown coal and even in that state, the real-world fuel life-cycle emissions of a typical electric vehicle would still be 20 per cent lower than a typical petrol vehicle. In Tasmania, which is dominated by renewable energy, electric vehicle emissions would be 88 per cent lower than a comparable petrol vehicle.

3. Cost savings

Electric vehicles are 70–90 per cent cheaper to operate, potentially saving households more than $2000 per year.

4. Economic opportunities

The Australian resources sector is well placed to capitalise on demand for minerals in batteries, such as lithium, and support the deployment of this technology globally using cheap, reliable and locally produced energy.

5. Fuel security

Australia is heavily dependent on imported fuels and holds reserves far below the International Energy Agency’s obligated 90-day supply. So the more quickly we transition to electric vehicles, the more secure our transport system will be.

6. Grid support

Electric vehicles hold enormous potential to support our electricity grid. If Australia’s 14 million-odd cars were electric, the energy stored in their batteries could power the entire nation for at least 24 hours, while still meeting average driving needs.

7. Health benefits

Noxious emissions from traditional vehicles take a massive toll on our health by contributing to rates of asthma and other chronic illnesses. Vehicle pollution causes an estimated 40–60 per cent more premature deaths than road accident fatalities in Australia. Electric vehicles provide a pathway to avoid these deaths.

Image credit: Getty

Electric vehicles charging
UQ electric vehicle researcher Jake Whitehead

Dr Jake Whitehead became UQ’s first dedicated e-mobility researcher in 2019, thanks to a generous $1.5 million donation to UQ through the Trevor and Judith St Baker Family Foundation. The new research position – the Tritium Fellow in E-Mobility – was established in the UQ Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, and aims to make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the transport sector, which is one of the main generators of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

Find out more about Dr Jake Whitehead’s research or get in touch with him at