A brief summary of Australian car import regulations and what it means for EVs

On December 10th 2018, the Australian Parliament passed major changes to motor vehicle import laws that may result in more electric cars on our roads. Before you read the rest of this article, check out my previous article on the Australian car import process. 99% of it still applies – get yourself acquainted with the Specialist & Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) then come back here to know what the new changes to SEVS mean for electric cars!

You’re back? Cool, let’s see what’s new in the Road Vehicle Standard Bill 2018.

The main change for electric vehicle importing is that the criteria required for a car to be added to the SEVS is not as restrictive. To get an EV added to the SEVS list, it only has to meet three criteria:

  • not be on sale in Australia
  • has been on sale more than 3 months overseas
  • and “offers environmental performance significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;”

If the car you want meets that criteria, then it can be added to the SEVS register and can be imported via a car importer and then made compliant with Australian regulations via a Registered Automotive Workshop (RAWs) – pretty much the same as it is now.

The government is also removing some of the red tape involved in operating a Registered Automotive Workshop, so expect to see more RAWs open up, particularly designed for EVs/low emissions vehicles as operating such a facility is less onerous.

The changes come into effect December 11th, 2019 due to a 1 year grace period for the motor industry to adapt. Unfortunately, this means there won’t be a nice batch of lightly used 2018 Nissan LEAFs coming into Australia any time soon, as Nissan will start selling the LEAF locally before these new laws come into effect.

However, cars that could hit the road in early 2020 thanks to these laws include:

  • Nissan e-NV200
  • Toyota Prius PHEV
  • Volkswagen Golf GTE, e-Golf & e-Up
  • Kia Soul EV

If you’ve been frustrated with the glacial pace of the Australian divisions of car manufacturers releasing EVs here that have been on sale elsewhere in the world for months, that will likely also change thanks to the amended import laws.

Take for example the Hyundai Ioniq – it initially went on sale in the UK back in late 2016/early 2017. Almost exactly 18 months later, Hyundai released it in Australia, presumably so nobody imports them from overseas, undercutting official dealerships. Under the new laws, imports of the Ioniq would have been allowed after 3 months of it going on sale overseas. If these new laws were in place when the Ioniq was first released, Hyundai would have likely launched the Ioniq in mid-2017 in Australia, instead of late 2018.

The Nissan LEAF and Renault Zoe would have been in the same situation – a speedy 3 month release window rather than the years we’re used to now. Going forward, these new laws will mean cars due for a late 2019-early 2020 release like the Kia Niro EV, Mini Electric and Volkswagen ID are likely to be sold in Australia at same time as the rest of the world, because the manufacturers will not want people importing their own and undercutting them.

While the new vehicle import laws are not as loose as New Zealand’s, it will eventually result in more EVs on the road in Australia – and that’s a good thing.

Anthony also produces The Sizzle - a daily email newsletter covering all aspects of technology with an Australian point of view.


  1. Nissan Serena E-Power would be another good candidate. Range extended Electric minivan. Seem to be getting popular in Japan so could be a good grey import option.

  2. Smart Fortwo electric is what I’d love. Great little city car, range isn’t a big problem. Maybe Mercedes will cave in by 11 December?

  3. We do welcome the rise in numbers of the electric cars. The more people adapt to this technology, the more manufacturers can improve on the electric cars’ existing issues and eventually they’ll be able to surpass the petroleum cars in terms of usage. We’re very hopeful and optimistic.

  4. Any commercial based EV would be an instant winner.

    No sign of a 400km+ people-mover yet. Gotta squeeze the family in the Model X till then

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