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NZ goes EV: Clean, green and meaner than you might expect

With more vehicles on the road, infrastructure starting to fall into place and the government stepping up to incentivise the big switch, electric vehicles are finally coming of age in New Zealand. In part one of an ongoing series, we explore the reasons for the rise. 

For those pinning their hopes on an electric future, it’s an exciting time for the industry. At last count, 630,000 electric vehicles (EVs) have been sold in China, 560,000 in the United States and 140,000 in Japan, with one forecast predicting that EVs are likely to account for 54% of all new car sales by 2040. 

So where does New Zealand fit in all this? Right now we’re doing okay: this time last year, New Zealand had 3,187 electric cars on the road (including plug-in hybrids and used imports). This year, the Ministry of Transport says that has more than doubled to 7,233. 

So could there be more impressive EV growth to come? There’s no reason why not: 85 percent of New Zealand’s energy generation is from renewable sources, which is #3 in the world by global standards, but it’s important in this revolution because it means that when you charge an EV in New Zealand, it really is the clean, green alternative. That’s something not many countries – and certainly not Australia, with its coal-heavy energy industry – can replicate. 

The Kiwi lifestyle also lends itself well to EV ownership: around 85 percent of New Zealand car owners have off-street parking so owners can charge their cars at home and at their leisure – usually while they sleep – removing the need for an intensive charging station infrastructure. Compare that to London, for example, where 60 percent of car owners have little choice but to park on the street. 

So what’s the hold up for us? At a consumer level, there can be a perception of expense. After all, Tesla’s Model S 75D starts at an eye-watering $129,095. But while Elon Musk has a knack for PR, that doesn’t make Tesla the best in show, and it doesn’t tell the whole story. At this point in time, the best-selling new EV in the country is the Hyundai Ioniq, starting at $59,990. More than 250 of them have been sold in New Zealand – 206 of those pure electric – since the model was introduced last year.

“The only people who think an electric vehicle isn't powerful enough are the ones who have never driven one.” 

“There are always consumers that want to be at the forefront of innovation and change,” says Andy Sinclair, General Manager of Hyundai NZ. “Then there are the people who have a genuine and heartfelt environmental concern and want to do something about it. And, of course, there are the people who have crunched the numbers and see that EVs just make a lot of economic sense.”

And it’s those cost-conscious buyers who may end up shaping the market in this country, says Sinclair.  

“It’s common for people to be put off by the fact that you pay more for an electric battery vehicle than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, but it costs so little from a recharging perspective that the savings add up very quickly. That is currently an education issue for the industry, because the return on investment is very much there. Maintenance is a lot less combined with no fuel costs.”

He says Hyundai’s Ioniq EV gets over 200 kilometres per charge – that’s about Mount Maunganui to the Sky Tower – “and not many of us travel over 200 kilometres every day”. The company’s forthcoming electric SUV model – the Kona Electric – will have a huge range of over 400 kilometres.

“The only thing lacking in an electric car is the noise,” he says. “And the only people who think an electric vehicle isn’t powerful enough are the ones who have never driven one. As far as power, acceleration and instant torque, EVs are far superior when compared to internal combustion vehicles … Look at it this way: they’ve basically got a Formula One series for electric cars, Formula E. Just how much more power do you want?”

For more information on Electric Vehicles visit hyundai.co.nz/electric-cars or call 0800 493 640.

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