Last week the government announced a package of options to try and boost the number of electric vehicles in New Zealand including the extremely idiotic move of allowing electric vehicles in bus lanes – something that even seems to have surprised our transport agencies. As part of the announcement they also set a target for how many electric vehicles they want to see in country.

A target of doubling the number of electric vehicles in New Zealand every year to reach approximately 64,000 by 2021

With this post I thought I’d look the numbers to see how we’re performing. The good news in this regard is that the Ministry has quite a bit of data publicly available to use. This is how the MoT classify an electric vehicle:

They can be powered in two ways:

  1. solely by electric batteries. These are commonly known as pure electric vehicles; or
  2. a combination of electric batteries and a petrol or diesel engine. These are commonly known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Hybrid vehicles that use a combination of a petrol or diesel engine, a battery or an onboard electric motor are not included in this definition of electric vehicles because their batteries cannot be charged from an external electricity source.

So where are we now. The data from the Ministry shows that as of April there were just over 1,220 electric vehicles registered in the country and growth has been fairly strong on an annual basis there has often been over 100% growth compared to the same time the previous year. This has been coming off a low base though. The 1,220 electric vehicles are made up of 659 full electric vehicles and 561 Plug-in Hybrids.

If we are to meet the government’s target, growth levels will need to remain at an exponential level for five years. This is shown below with us meeting the 64k target by the end of 2021.

EVs vs Govt Target

To put things in a little perspective, as of the March quarter there are over 3.5 million light vehicles in the country so electric’s only make up a tiny 0.03%. Even if the total fleet size didn’t growth for the five years of the 64k government target, electrics would still account for fewer than 2% of all light vehicles. In reality growth in the total fleet will mean that even if achieved, electrics will make up a tiny percent.

Next let’s take a look at the number of registrations that are actually occurring. The good news on this front is you can see there has definitely been growth and April was the biggest month yet with just under 100 vehicles registered with used full electric (Nissan Leaf’s I believe) the largest segment.

EV Registrations

But again while the growth is heading in the right direction, they represent only a tiny fraction of all vehicle registrations with the data showing that over the last year an average of over 23k light vehicles are being registered each month. While still small the good news is that the share of electric vehicles being registered and in March reached a high of 0.3% and was then passed 0.4% in April. To be on track for the government’s target the numbers registered for each month to this December will need to surpass the April results.

Trying to predict forward just what percentage of vehicles will need to be electric in 2021 is a little difficult though because as the graph below shows, unsurprisingly the car market appears to be linked closely to economic cycles- although I haven’t bothered to look at that issue more closely. Should the total number of light vehicles sold in 2021 remain at the level it’s out now, the 32,000 electric vehicles that would need t be sold in 2021 to meet the target would account for about 11% of all registrations.

Total light Registrations

When it comes to where electric vehicles are located it’s no surprise they’re where our largest cities are. The MoT list the regions where the vehicles were registered and also by where they were last inspected which they say is the best guide for where they’re located. Auckland tops the list with over 630 (52%) EV’s.

EVs by region

Lastly a there is also information about what make and model these EV’s are. Of the over 1,200, 73% are one of two models. The Nissan Leaf is the most popular with 487 vehicles while the Mitsubishi Outland PHEV is second at 400 units registered.

Getting a greater range of EV’s and having them in a price range more people are prepared to pay (as much as we may want a Tesla), will be critical to improving the uptake of them.

Do you think we can meet the government’s targets?

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  1. Incentivising EVs has merit but as shown, the measures proposed don’t shift the overall picture much. The big deal is emissions from all those FF powered cars so how about disincentivising them at the same time. A better target might be EV kms as a proportion rather than more EVs per se. That implies also less FF kms. Which means also investing much more in PT and active.

    1. Disencentivise FF vehicles? All this does is attack the poor. They won’t be able to afford EV’s any time soon. Not smart thinking. This site is obsessed with dreaming up punishments for car users at every turn. .

  2. Why do you keep using negative words when someone suggests something you don’t like?. “Idiotic”? May be to you, but there are people out there paid real money to work these things through, and for now that is what they have come up with to encourage the uptake of EVs. This world of transport isn’t all about punishment, sometimes there’s a carrot. We won’t be suddenly overrun with these vehicles. And when the volumes become an issue, the rules will change. Bizarre that you attack good ideas in this way.

    1. And we’ve heard that none of those organisations who are paid money to work things out either knew about it or gave advice suggesting it.

      Also the idea has been widely panned by all sides including those who don’t normally support PT

    2. Who are these people who have paid real money to work these things through? NZTA?MOT? or Treasury? Any publicly available links please.

  3. So it is clear that relying on a transformation of the road vehicle fleet to electric drive is no substitute for actual action on carbon emissions as little meaningful change in our fleet can be expected for decades. A shift of capital investment to truly sustainable movement systems and urban form remains urgent.

    Additionally as we wait for the global vehicle industry to scale electric vehicle production, no easy thing, it is valuable to note that for every EV currently manufactured thre are 100 e-bikes made.

    And project evaluation methods need to catch up with reality and mega highway projects cannot seriously claim carbon emissions benefits as they do currently, especially compared to the possibility of building currently available electric system such as electric rail of various kinds in our cities.

  4. What would have made much more sense from an environmental point of view is to set a target of increasing public transport use by X amount each year. However that would have meant spending money on infrastructure.

      1. Why not just set a target for reducing CO2, which is the goal, and stop using proxies like VKT and PT usage, and allow different cities/regions to come up with their own solutions

        One idea
        -> each territorial authority is given a CO2 goal
        -> funding is linked to this
        -> if they miss their target they lose funding

        For Auckland, PT might be the key. For the wops, it might be quite different

        1. Because apathetic conservatives like John Key et al love the idea of technology solutions like electric cars, autonomous vehicles, CO2 scrubbers on power plants, bio fuels etc because they think it will let them do just enough to help the environment and not require any change of behaviour on their part whatsoever. They can still buy a flash car and drive it all the time, and it’s OK because it’s electric.

          Actually targeting the end outcome, e.g. CO2 emissions, might result in change they, and those they represent, are not comfortable with.

          1. Yes this all about finding some kind of change that actually means no change. Can you see the contradiction in that? Technology will not enable the Status Quo go on forever, but that’s their desperate wish. Global megachange means local change too, in fact.

    1. So despite headlines about rising car numbers the truth is we are already driving less than we used to. This is entirely expected especially in AKL as the city intensifies; urban form influences movement habits and vast-versa. Below is a chart from the MoT website, for the whole nation i think, the future projection is just a guess but the past is very clear; our drive-always years are already behind us, and there surely is an opportunity in our cities to focus on investments that enable this pattern to continue and accelerate. The dis-benefits from a driving intensive society are so great and are certainly not limited to environmental issues, that there is surely a great opportunity here:

  5. Wait so there are more regular cyclists, and probably more e-bikes, than there are electric cars at the moment? Funny.

    1. Don’t worry the government is introducing the EV/Bus/Cycle Share Lane which should help decrease these bloody cyclist numbers. #stupididea!

    2. Yeah, but as we all know, no matter what you do to incentivise cyclists you will never get exponential growth like we all know is possible for EVs. Or have I got that the wrong way around?

    3. Electric bikes make a lot of sense. Bikes are built to be as light as possible and nobody has any expectation of safety in a crash. In fact ebikes are so good one of them will probably win the Tour de France this year.

      1. “Bikes are built to be as light as possible and nobody has any expectation of safety in a crash.”

        Hmm I think I would rather be hit by an e bike than an EV.

  6. New Zealand is one of the few countries where EVs are actually deliver any worthwhile environmental benefit, due to our high renewables percentage. Recently, there have been some figures floating around that the average EV delivers only 1 tonne of carbon savings over a comparable diesel over its lifetime (given battery production and disposal, and many countries burning a lot of coal for electricity). Thus, $9bn in global subsidies to date have slowed global warming by 30 minutes. Imagine how that $9bn could have been better spent… even if on EV R&D instead of EV uptake incentives!

    In NZ, I think there is potential for uptake and a good environmental benefit from doing so. I would suggest that what it takes is an electricity generator (say, Meridian with their high hydro %) to import and sell them *at cost* as a loss leader for the future margin made on their running costs i.e Meridian electricity. In doing so, Meridian (or a competitor) could partner with EV manufacturer(s) who otherwise don’t see NZ as having worthwhile volume. With Meridian driving volume, our market becomes more attractive to the EV manufacturer and it also gives them a chance to point to a situation where their “greener vehicles” actually are greener.

    In short… I don’t think that public $ spent stimulating demand are particularly necessary or effective. Demand is there when EV prices are competitive, but the EVs are currently priced in excess of what most are able to pay. There is a market solution to that issue.

      1. It depends on the counterfactual though. If the counterfactual is a conventional average ICE vehicle then yes, there is an emmision reduction. But if the counterfactual is a PT or cycle commuter then there is potentially an increase in emmisions. The EECA looks at ICE vs EV but that is only one way of looking at things. Do light cigarettes prevent cancer?

        I would also be interested to know if the EECA assessed things properly by looking at where the marginal kWh is actually coming from, rather than just looking at average emmisions per kWh.

  7. There is no market failure here. EV’s are useless and expensive so people don’t buy them. No need for any policy intervention at all.

      1. Try a like for like comparison. I tested an Outlander and then a hybrid Outlander. The hybrid was ok while both petrol and electric were going but then the power runs out and you are left with a vehicle that simply has too small and engine to do the job. There is a really good reason so few people are buying them. Most people behave rationally.

        1. Most PHEV Outlander’s are used for taking little Johnny to school. Doesn’t need much power for that…

          Anyone who uses an Outlander for towing a boat or a load of building supplies isn’t going to be too worried about a bit of green wash.

    1. EV’s are ‘currently’ useless – I expect that to change really quickly.
      Its a pity the big car manufacturers don’t even seem to be trying to build decent EV’s.
      I agree that there is no need for EV specific policy intervention, but they should start charging a more realistic emissions tax on petrol and diesel to even things up…

    2. I drive an EV everyday, the ICE car has been stuck in the driveway for months unused and unloved. Why are EV’s useless? I charge it at home overnight and it costs me about $11 per week to run, no oil changes, no oil filters. Zero Emissions, I have done nearly 8000 km since I purchased it in October. The only maintenance these things need is the tyres rotated and the washer fluid topped up.

  8. Hears my two cents…. If the government wants to increase EV, why dont they tax petrol/diesel vehicles more while subsidising EV vehicles… This issue is the same with the obesity problem. Healthy foods are too expensive while bad foods are cheap. If healthy foods and EV are cheaper (or even more affordable) then the demand will shift. I would like an EV but the price is just too high.

    1. At the moment EV’s don’t pay any form of road user charges unlike petrol and deisel cars – so they are heavily subsidised.

        1. It would be around $600 a year for a car doing 10,000 km (charge $62/ 1000 km) but most EVs would have much higher mileage. I’d imagine plenty of them will do 20,000 km a year, which makes it $1240 a year, and the exemption is in place until 2021. So it’s actually quite a large subsidy for people buying an EV today.

          1. 10,000 kms a year is the current annual average for the NZ light fleet more or less isnt it?

            So why will EV’s have a higher mileage? Because the fuels 5 times cheaper than petrol so we’ll drive [5 times?] more distance in one or its so more expensive you have to justify the cost by driving more in it?

            Surely the lack of quick recharge points around the country means for the currently available EV models you are stuck doing at best 100km a day because beyond that distance you need a longish recharge time at a fast charger. So at 100km a [working] day thats about 25,000km a year being driven.

            But most EVs in the fleet now and in the next 5 years will in reality do well under half that figure per day that so the $600 figure is likely more accurate than the extreme figure of $1200 or so a year quoted. Yes some will do those sorts of distances, most won’t.

            And how long the EV batteries last at that level of usage, especially if its a second hand [3-5 year old] Jap import, may mean they don’t even last 5 more years once imported here if its a second hand Jap model.

            So at best, an EV driven to its maximum distance every day for 5 years will amount to a $6000-$8000 RUC subsidy.
            Note it will still pay registration, ACC levies and such, so its not like its a total free lunch.

          2. People who want to do long trips won’t be buying one any time soon. I would expect most will sit parked most of the time. Maybe we will need to bring in minimum parking requirements so apartment dwellers will be able to own an EV and have somewhere to charge it.

  9. We bought a Nissan Leaf 1 month ago. $32,000 for an excellent, super zippy city car that does 95 per cent of all trips which has 173 km of range. We need superchargers every 100 km to make it cover 100 per cent. We are amazed the recent policy did not provide financial incentives in that direction. Agree that the reduction in emssions wont be significant overall. Electric bikes have much more potential IMHO. I have commuted with one daily about 25km round trip for three years

    1. I took a look at the charging station map and it seems to me that there is apretty good number of charging stations however there are not many quick charge and that’s wehre the numbers need to grow.

  10. They will easily meet the target if there are ever any decent EV’s for sale in NZ at a reasonable cost.
    The Outlander is the type of vehicle I would be looking at; a smaller less expensive battery and a petrol engine to back it up for the odd longer trip. But if you don’t happen to like Mitsubishi’s quality (as I don’t) or if you don’t want an SUV (as I don’t), what are your options?

    1. Make sure you test it with the electric off before you decide. It will be off a lot of the time leaving you with a large car with a very small engine.

      1. What nonsense John. The Outlander is a lousy vehicle no matter how it is powered, it’s an oversized sloppy machine that no passionate driver would go near. But then very few car owners are actually passionate drivers. It, like the Leaf, or whatever, is perfectly adequate for most urban and suburban car users needs. Availability and price is the issue with EVs, your claim that EVs are ‘useless’ is more just more of your silly contrarianism.

        1. You misunderstand me Patrick. The little EV’s are great if you want an origami car to go 20km (say from the CBD to some useful shops). But if you plan to load your family in and have a day at Muriwai or a weekend at Whangamata you will need a petrol engine or diesel if you don’t mind noise and smoke.

        2. I did look at an Outlander plug in 18 months ago. Nice but a) not enough electric range b) as a mechanic, Mitsi’s have never impressed and c) just too expensive to justify the added expense.

      2. Actually Outlander PHEV has 3 engines. 2x 60 kW electric motors independently power the front and rear wheels, while the petrol-powered engine is used as a generator for the motors (at low speeds = high torque), or to power the vehicle directly (at high speeds = economy). I hear from people driving them that they absolutely love the power it generates. I am puzzled however why they chose only a 12 kWh battery pack (it is lithium-ion). Pure electrics still have the benefit of no oil and no combustion engine maintenance…

  11. Every car I’ve every bought was a second hand import from Japan. Does the growth trajectory of EV’s follow Japanese car policy on renewals? Or is the assumption that we’re buying “new” EV’s? That growth graph looks optimistic to me.

  12. What may be worth looking at is figures of what kind of vehicles make up new registrations. Things like mix of new vs second-hand vehicles. How many new registrations are second-hand Japanese imports? What is the average price paid for a newly imported vehicle?
    If I had 30,000 -35,000 to spend on a new car I would seriously consider an EV. But I (like I suspect a large number of people) typically have a budget in the region of $5,000 – $8,000. My question is what % of the population are realistically going to be able to afford to buy an EV in the next 5 years? (and a second-hand one already registered doesn’t count because the aim is to increase the total number of registrations). What % of new registrations in the higher price brackets will be needed? If by 2021 somewhere around 1 in 10 new registrations will need to be an EV to meet the goal and (I don’t have figures but I would guess) 60-80% of new registrations are cars that are substantially cheaper, you could easily be looking at a situation where close to 50% (or more?) of newly registered cars in the higher price brackets are EVs, is this achievable? and what would it take to achieve it?

    1. The numbers can be found on the NZTA website, iirc annual new registrations broken down by make and model. The magic number for second hand importers is $12k, with a bell-curve spread about $4k either side.

  13. This would be mistaken for an April Fools joke if it were posted last month.

    Tiny cars like the Chevy Spark and Nissan Leaf have tiny ranges.. 135km range (105km on long-life charge, which is what I’d be using if I cared about reliability). This won’t manage a return trip from Manukau to Silverdale. It certainly won’t be up to the typical duties of a company ‘pool car’ (ours average about 350km a day). So the only real use is for someone who commutes to work, parks all day and drives home. This is the exact scenario where public transport should be encouraged – not incentivising private commuting.

    For a private EV buyer, what are you supposed to do when you want to leave Auckland? Rent a different car? Or have two cars? Again, not good behaviour to encourage.

    In 5 years the picture will look a lot different. Upcoming BMW i5 and Audi E-Tron models will have 200km+ ranges (still not enough for an NZ family car) and will cost $150k+.

    Surely hybrid is the way to go: an efficient & powerful (but rough) 2 or 3 cyl gas engine with a torquey electric motor to even it out & to crawl around the city. And the ‘drop & swap’ battery packs will help, eventually. But we can’t allow hybrids in bus lanes and really don’t need to incentivise them.

    1. For people who live and work along a good PT spine this make sense, but there are many others who either don’t fit this bill (like me North shore to Penrose daily) or soccer-moms etc who do reactively low mileages locally. For these people EVs with 100km+ range are perfect as a 2nd family car.

      I saw a 2nd hand Leaf for sale for $16k yesterday in a car yard. That’s a lot of cheap and green motoring for a small outlay.

      I am mighty temped to put down a deposit for a Model 3. Problem at the moment is that my FF company car is provided tax free (to me)….

  14. I think vehicles like the Tesla 3 and X will certainly help once they are actually available in NZ. Likewise there probably would have been around 50 Tesla S’s sold in NZ by now if they were actually available here properly rather than via the grey market. Yes they are expensive but so are a lot of the cars on the road in NZ.
    Of course the other thing that will happen with more EVs is that the number of charging stations will increase to reflect this which will become a virtuous circle with less range anxiety generating more uptake and more charging stations.
    The other thing is that the EVs themselves will become better with more range etc and faster charging.

  15. This idea that people won’t buy an EV because it can’t handle the occasional long trip they might want to make is blinkered. Renting a particular type of vehicle when you need one is common. So if you want to make that occasional long journey you simply leave the EV at home and rent what you need. Or, if for the most part you can manage without a car at all, then you just rent one when you need one and don’t bother owning any sort.
    Some people’s thinking is so constrained by what they have hitherto been accustomed to doing.

    1. It isn’t ‘common’ because people with non-EV cars don’t have to, and God knows there are plenty of ICEs out there already so why on Earth would it be common?

      I’d argue somewhat the opposite – by the time EVs get to a price point where they are actually affordable – and not a middle class curiosity for people who need to run a second car so have the ICE vehicle as a safety valve – whatever solid state battery or improvements in battery tech will have finally come along to the extent that the problem ultimately solves itself.

      1. It is common to rent a van, ute, trailer, campervan, etc. Renting a larger car/SUV/people mover on those rare occasions when you need the space is common in Europe. It would be more common here if more of us calculated the full cost of owning a larger vehicle than we need (extra fuel, depreciation, etc).

  16. Do these numbers for electric vehicle include all electric vehicles, including electric bicycles and hoverboards(self-balancing two-wheeled boards)? Surely we’ll hit the target much sooner if we include them.

    It should given Land Transport Act 1998 defines a vehicle means a contrivance equipped with wheels, tracks, or revolving runners on which it moves or is moved.

  17. Department of Internal Affairs Going Green

    The Department of Internal Affairs announced today it is helping fight global warming by replacing its fleet of 32 BMW 7 series with new Medcedes S Class Plug-In Hybrids. The BMWs were purchased new in early 2016 and will now be disposed of.

    Prime Minister John Key was quoted as saying “At the end of the day — if it has been a long weekend — I’m often up in Omaha and have to rush back to SkyCity for a National Party fundraiser. The Prime Minister’s time is too valuable to be stuck in traffic – for every hour at the event I’ll raise an additional $50k for The Party which will go straight into campaigning and trickle down to help NZ’s most needy PR agencies.” He added an hour of Steven Joyce’s time was likely to raise at least $100 more, and that the new Mercedes along with a package of law changes would enable them to both travel without delay down the Northern Busway. “We have turned the underused Busway into a prestigious Road of National Significance with these strategic alignments.”

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs was unaware of any plans to put charging facilities in their depots, but stated that the 329 HP turbo charged V6 in the hybrid was more than able to move the 3 tonne vehicle. Drivers would be instructed to leave the cars idling to recharge the batteries while waiting for the Prime Minister in case a surge of power was needed to overtake a bus.

    The cost of the new vehicles had not been budgeted by the DIA, as the BMWs were expected to last until at least 2019. Instead, the NZTA will pick up the cost of the new vehicles. “We have to share these limos with visiting heads of government so they’re effectively buses for VIPs and we’ve been able to repurpose some low value public transport funds for this reason” Joyce, who was last Minister for Transport in 2011, commented.

      1. The BMW only has a 258HP 4 cylinder petrol engine. Clearly targeted at tree lovers, not prime ministers.

  18. – use of bus lanes is frequently cited as key to EV adoption internationally. Info on this should be published so we can evaluate the actual issues: congestion and cycle conflict. Obviously this would be phased out when we have a good problem that there’s too many users, which is what Norway is now doing having reached 100,000 vehicles.

    – To answer your question about can we reached 64,000, it seems likely we would get there anyway, given product entrants (eg Tesla 3, and the competitors to it we gain in 2018) and frankly we need to be setting our sights higher (including use of public transport etc) to reach climate and related goals.

    – By 2020 it would make sense that further measures would be added, such as emissions tax when a car comes to NZ or on an annual basis. But it would have to be thousands of dollars per year to be effective in swaying buying behaviour.

    – I have compiled a lot of info and videos about EVs in NZ and published this to and would enjoy discussion on what you find there. I am paid and do voluntary work in the electric vehicle space.


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