The Difference Between Electric Vehicles and LEVs

The Difference Between Electric Vehicles and LEVs
Contributor: Marni Dixit
This article is sponsored by BHP.

The automotive industry is slowly transitioning from conventional cars to electric vehicles (EVs). And while you’ve likely heard of EVs, LEVs (low emission vehicles) also play a huge role in reducing greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions from car travel in Australia. Given that transport is a huge contributor to the climate crisis, EVs and LEVs are essential to reducing the world’s overall emissions.

But it can often be confusing to understand the difference between the two, so allow us to explain.


EVs are cars powered purely by electricity or a combination of electricity and fuel and produce less CO2 than petrol or diesel cars. If recharged from renewable energy, they can produce zero emissions.

While many people believe owning an EV will cost them more in electricity bills and the replacement of batteries, they actually reduce car maintenance costs by 35-46% over time, according to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

For Australia to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035, 75% of new car sales must be electric by 2030. To achieve this, initiatives have been put in place across states in Australia, with the NSW Government recently announcing its Electric Vehicle Strategy — making the state the most accessible place in Australia to buy and drive EVs.

EV production requires a significant amount of copper supplied by companies such as BHP, which is 100% recyclable and can be reused repeatedly without losing quality. In addition, recycled copper can reduce emissions and energy output compared with mining, milling, smelting and refining new copper.

Over in Western Australia, BHP’s investing $50 million in nickel exploration, as a standard battery found in electric vehicles rely on 39kgs of nickel (compared to 5kg of manganese and 6kg of lithium). The more nickel incorporated into an EV’s battery means the car can drive for longer, so it’s an essential element that will increase in demand as more Australian consumers opt for an EV.

The latest renewable power purchasing agreement (RPPA) signed by BHP aims to “increase the sustainability of the nickel produced by Nickel West,” Asset President Eddy Haegel said, with a projected 50% decrease in electricity emissions associated with the production of nickel.


LEVs emit significantly lower volumes of greenhouse gases than conventional cars and can encompass various vehicle types, including biofuels, hybrids and electric vehicles. As a result, in some countries, LEVs will be very helpful in curtailing the rise in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

A study by MIT in 2016 also found that LEVs are actually the least expensive cars to drive, quashing the myth that you have to pay more for a low emission vehicle.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are considered the natural stepping stone to the adoption of fully electric vehicles. In Australia sales of these vehicles almost doubled in 2020 with 63,871 sold, compared to the 34,140 sold in 2019, according to Canstar.

Most hybrids in Australia use a petrol engine as the primary source of power to drive the wheels. Then the battery-driven electric motor offers a helping hand in driving shorter distances. The battery is charged by a system that captures the energy created when the car brakes and accelerates.

Plug-in hybrids are run using a large battery-powered electric motor that plugs into an electrical source. They will use their petrol engines only when the electric motor has run out of energy, after around 50-60kms.

While plug-in hybrids don’t consume or emit as much CO2 as a regular hybrid, they are typically more expensive. 

EVs and LEVs differ mainly in that EVs emit no CO2 from the car and save the driver on fuel costs, but they are often limited in how far they can be driven before needing to be recharged. EVs are also typically more expensive to purchase than LEVs.

So, if you’re in the market for a car, an LEV is a good start if you can’t quite afford an EV. Then, perhaps when it’s time to purchase your next car, EVs will become more affordable in Australia.

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