In August 2016, the then-National government set a target for New Zealand to have 64,000 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2021. The target may have seemed ambitious – there were only 1,400 EVs in the country at the time the target was set – but we seem to be on track.
The Ministry of Transport reports EV registrations on a monthly basis, and there are now more than 6,000 registered EVs as at the end of 2017. If the number keeps doubling each year (as it has so far), the number in the fleet would get to 96,000 by the end of 2021. The tricky bit will be the next few years, trying to climb further up the exponential curve.
Some interesting findings come out of the Ministry’s data:
- 74% of the EVs registered so far have been electric-only, with the other 26% being ‘plug-in hybrids’
- Half of the EVs so far have been registered in Auckland
- 60% were ‘used imports’ rather than new. Almost all used imports were from Japan.
- EVs are now making up 1% of all vehicle registrations (and close to 1.5% in the last three months)
- The Nissan Leaf is by far the most common EV, 46% of all registrations so far. Next on the list is the Mitsubishi Outlander, a plug-in hybrid SUV which has been pretty popular (14% of registrations so far)
- The average EV drives 12,900 km a year.
Used vs New
So, 60% of the EVs entering the fleet are “used” rather than “new”. Maybe that’s not surprising: most of the cars imported into NZ are second-hand, and that’s been the case since the sector was deregulated 30 years ago. But a few years back, it was uncertain how many second-hand EVs would be around to enter the NZ market.
The people who bought them new (in ‘early adopter’ countries like Japan, where most of our used cars come from) might have hung onto them. In Japan, where it’s pretty expensive to buy and run a petrol car (taxes etc), there are lots of financial incentives to drive EVs instead. Even so, a few thousand have already made their way to New Zealand; maybe the original buyers have traded up to even newer EV models.
As such, EV uptake here is quite dependent on how fast Japanese consumers are buying and then selling EVs. The Ministry sees some headwinds here, as apparently the Japanese EV fleet is growing quite slowly. However, the NZ government is starting to boost its own purchases of EVs, and there will be quite a few new models available in the market in the next few years – e.g. the new 2018 Leaf, Tesla finally starting to open stores here (and launching their Model 3), etc. We’ve got a way to go yet.
Fully Electric vs Plug-in Hybrid
The other finding – and this is a global one, not just NZ – is that fully electric EVs have dominated sales compared with plug-in hybrids. Again, this wasn’t really expected a few years back. Part of the appeal of electric technology is that it can get rolled out incrementally: a pathway from traditional cars through to hybrids like the Prius, through to plug-in hybrids, through to fully electric EVs. Instead, many manufacturers have skipped straight to the last step.
At a touch under 13,000 km a year, EVs are driven for roughly the same distance as the average new-ish vehicle. That’s a good early sign. For a given EV, you’d want it to replace as many petrol-fuelled kilometres as possible, to maximise the emissions reduction and so that the EV owner can offset more of the high purchase price for these cars. These results suggest that EV owners aren’t getting too hung up on ‘range anxiety’, and are maximising the use of their electric cars.
EVs, Emissions and Congestion
Electric vehicles are very well suited to New Zealand – our electricity is mainly renewable, so they’re very low emissions compared to other vehicles. However, I don’t think any post on EVs is complete without a reminder that they don’t help solve the other problem with car-based transport: congestion. In a growing city like Auckland, we’ll need to focus on public and active transport, rather than how our cars are powered.