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It’s hard to go a day without seeing an electric vehicle on the road in New Zealand. There’s been a big shift in the last few years in Kiwis interest and uptake of EVs. Ministry of Transport figures from March 2022 show that there were 38,117 electric vehicles on the road. So it’s understandable that we’d be noticing their presence more. 

So why are people moving across to the electric vehicle revolution? Here’s just some reasons behind it.

Petrol is getting more expensive

Petrol has been getting increasingly more expensive over the last few years, and in 2022 with the events in Europe, there was a sharp increase again on the per litre cost of petrol. Even with this being managed through reduction of taxes on fuel and more supply being made available, the cost of petrol makes a significant dent in weekly budgets. To fill up a large family vehicle in regular daily use, petrol expenses can easily hit $500 a month.

For many households who are also tackling the challenge of higher rent, mortgage payments and interest rates and grocery costs on the rise, fuel costs are just that extra hit that EVs can avoid. Whilst it’s not free to run an EV - your electricity costs will obviously increase, the rate at which petrol prices are going, it’s certainly looking like a more attractive option for many people.

The concern of emissions

Electric vehicles were found in a commissioned study by EECA to provide an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions when used in New Zealand compared to petrol-run counterparts. Over the entire life of the EV, the climate change commission estimates about 60% fewer emissions than petrol cars, including the production, shipping and operating of the vehicle. As New Zealand becomes less reliant on fossil fuels, EV’s emission stats will get even better, the Commission has said.

It’s almost in our DNA as New Zealand to be considering the environment through our life decisions. Clean green New Zealand is a fairly universally shared goal - maintaining our beautiful natural environment has been on the collective radar for decades now.

To preserve the quality of our air, water, plant life and animals, the reliance upon fossil fuels is something that ultimately will need to be reduced. Luckily, New Zealand is beyond 80% renewable in its energy production.

So when it comes to vehicles that use petrol or diesel and give off significant emissions, electric vehicles are much better aligned with a desire for sustainability and better treatment of the planet. It should be noted however, that EV ownership is still in its infancy globally, and the exact cost and toll of replacement batteries is still something that’s evolving. There is concern about the recycling of old batteries - something we expect to become far more sophisticated with time.

The government are encouraging purchase of new EVs

In order to encourage adoption of electric vehicles into the mainstream within New Zealand, the government announced a new scheme in 2016 designed to incentivise these purchases through discounts on imported electric vehicles. Coming into effect eventually as the Clean Car Discount, the programme will help bring the affordability within reach to more Kiwis making the switch. Conversely, there are fees placed on importation of standard fuel vehicles to cover the cost of this programme.

While the programme has been in effect for only a short period of time, the increase in interest and update of electric vehicles suggests attitudes are changing and these incentives help this happen.

Modern technology

Aside from the cost of fuel and its associated environmental concerns, there are plenty of other things that are attracting Kiwis to join the EV revolution. One of these factors is the latest technology that electric vehicles typically include. Consider things like:

  • Computer controlled power to the 4 wheels, ensuring even disbursement of electrical energy converted into mechanical energy.

  • Network connectivity to locate the car, connect with the brand’s own systems, mobile apps and reporting of diagnostics and usage in a fleet application.

  • Latest touch screen dashboard technology.

  • Regenerative braking - using kinetic energy captured through braking the EV, some power can be gained and stored back in the battery. This means that your EV is doing some charging while it’s driving. This isn’t enough to keep the car indefinitely charged, but the technology does assist with range.

  • Range as a measure of how much energy you’ve got left. Electric vehicles provide owners with a km reading of how much farther the car can travel before needing a charge. This is really useful when planning out a trip.

Each model and make of EV has its own features and technologies, but you can be confident that any new purchase will feel like driving the future and not the past of automobiles.

Charge over night and remove petrol station visits

Stopping to fill up with petrol or diesel is something that the population has simply come to accept as part of weekly errands. But we’ve all had those moments where we suddenly get caught out having to fill up making us late for something or taking an inconvenient detour.

With electric vehicles, the charging is mostly done at home, overnight while you sleep. After parking in the garage or carport, the owner plugs in the car to the wall charging kit where the vehicle is charged gradually over the night. Depending on the brand of car and charger you may be able to select different charging options such as rapid charging or overnight which may draw less power on average but take longer.

When you remove the petrol station visits from your life, it may be hard to go back! Sure you may have times where you are on a road trip and need an EV charging point to juice back up - but for daily life, your home is now where your car gets its energy from! 

Growing options for aspiring EV owners

One of the big critiques in the past for EV ownership was simply due to the lack of options. Initially only Tesla and after the Nissan Leaf were the main options for Kiwi drivers. In the past 2-3 years the options have greatly increased, with many of the popular Japanese car manufacturers in New Zealand now bringing an electric option into their lineup.

As more models are released, prices will start to become more competitive. So too, will the prices on the secondary market as more used EVs are sold to upgrade. We’ve been in the initial period of EV ownership in this country for a while now, so it’s been a bit hard to find a deal on pre-owned. But this is surely set to change as converted EV owners look to upgrade and sell off their old car.

One of the biggest considerations with anyone weighing up EV ownership is what it does to the power bill. The same EECA report referenced earlier estimates that if every car in New Zealand was electric, our national energy demands would increase by 20%. 

It’s worth considering then, what happens at an individual household level when you start to charge your EV at home every night. How much extra energy and cost will you incur as a result of an EV? What charging approach will help keep costs down the most? And do you have some alternative methods for energy that can help keep these down?

For example, some EV owners may live in sunnier parts of the country where they can run solar panels to reduce how much reliance on the grid they have. Coupled with an EV, this might be a good solution. For most households currently however, the off peak rates are usually when charging will take place. Owners are given a fair amount of control over their charging onboard or via an app, so the timing of the charging may be able to be set to only operate when per kw/hr rates are at their lowest. 

Accommodating EV charging is something that generators and the government will need to navigate. Together with evolving technologies to extend the range of EVs and the requirements for consumption to charge, EVs should continue to become more energy conscious.

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