For many young drivers, the probationary phase of obtaining your licence is new and exciting – however, it's also full of limitations to keep everyone safe.
These limitations can be especially confusing as they differ between each of Australia's states and territories.
As electric vehicles (EVs) emerge – typically marketed with claims of instant pick-up and fast acceleration – as the new default, rules and regulations may struggle to keep up.
This begs the question: Am I allowed to drive an electric car on my P-plates?
Can I drive an electric car on my P-plates?
The simple answer is yes, but it depends on where you live and the model in question.
Restrictions on new drivers vary by state. In the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory there are no vehicle restrictions for provisional drivers, so go for your life.
In New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia there are restrictions regarding power-to-weight ratios and the definition of a performance vehicle.
As a rule of thumb, a P-plater is prohibited from driving a vehicle:
- With a power-to-weight ratio greater than 130kW per tonne
- With an engine that has been modified for increased performance
- That has been declared as a prohibited vehicle by local state laws
In NSW, there is a further list of restricted vehicles, even if they don't crest 130kW/tonne and have not been modified. An example of this is the entire Subaru WRX range, despite some variants falling below the power-to-weight ratio threshold.
This becomes irrelevant for P1 and P2 provisional licence holders in South Australian drivers once they turn 25.
Which electric cars can I drive on P-plates?
In the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, you are permitted to drive any electric vehicle.
In other states, you'll need to ensure that cars not already on a prohibited list have a power-to-weight ratio of 130kW per tonne, which you can find out using a simple equation.
Take the listed power output of your vehicle and divide it by the kerb weight in tonnes. For example, our 2022 Wheels Car of the Year the Kia EV6 GT develops 430kW and weighs 2.620 tonnes (2620kg).
This gives the EV6 a power-to-weight ratio of 164kW/tonne, which is above the legal limit.
An MG 4 64kWh, though, with 150kW outputs and 1.672 tonnes of metal pushing down on the ground has a power-to-weight ratio of 90kW/tonne. It is therefore approved for P-plate drivers in all states.
Typically, P-platers will be excluded from driving powerful, luxury electric cars such as Tesla, BMW and Genesis. Vehicles that are permitted include all current BYD models, single-motored Polestar 2s, all Hyundai Kona EVs and all electric MGs.
Relevant links to search banned P-plate vehicles in your state
Exceptions for prohibited vehicles
States with restrictions on vehicles do sometimes allow exemptions. This also varies state-by-state and is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
For example, in Victoria you can submit a probationary prohibited vehicle exemption application form and pay the $66.10 fee.
The same is relevant to NSW drivers who can submit their exemption form to be assessed for $34.
VicRoads may grant you an exemption from the P-plater limitation if you can demonstrate that, due to your critical activities, job, employment, or family situation, the restriction would cause you undue hardship.
In Victoria, a probationary driver can also drive a prohibited vehicle if they are:
- Being supervised by someone with a full driver's licence sitting beside them
- Need to drive in the course of their employment and at their employer's request
In NSW you are able to get the same exemption for additional reasons, such as the vehicle was owned (by themselves or a parent, guardian, spouse or partner) prior to changes made to the novice driver high-performance restrictions list of prohibited vehicles.
Penalties for driving a prohibited vehicle
If you're caught driving a probationary prohibited vehicle, you risk receiving a fine. In some states, this fine is accompanied by hefty demerit points.
The NSW Police are particularly strict, handing out a substantial seven demerit points along with a huge $603 fine. Note that P1 and P2 licence holders in the state have limits of 4 and 7 points, respectively. So if you're given this fine, it will result in the suspension of your licence.
In Victoria and Queensland, you'll receive 3 demerit points and will need to pay fines of $385 and $154 respectively.
Considering that as a young driver you start with only about 5 or 6 points, it's worth checking if your EV is on the do-not-drive list.