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Photo of New Zealand by Majella Waterworth


New Zealand Achieves 30% Plugin Vehicle Penetration

Back in August, CleanTechnica broke the news that New Zealand (a tiny nation in the Pacific) had reached a penetration rate of 12% vehicle sales being plugin vehicles. Now, New Zealand has bumped that up to 30%! Much of the reaction in August was centred around one-off factors, and many felt that this was a blip and the situation would return to normal. One of the reasons cited was that the Tesla Model Y and the BYD Atto 3 had just landed, and since they accounted for 70% of EV sales, it was likely that the wave would subside. Well, the blip is getting bigger and the wave is getting higher. It looks like New Zealand has achieved 30% plugin penetration for the first time.

Figures released by the New Zealand Department of Transport indicate that of the almost 100,000 light vehicles sold in 2022, almost 20% were full electric (BEVs), 10% were plugin hybrids (PHEVs), and 50% were conventional hybrids lacking a plug (HEVs). Not much room was left for petrol and diesel cars. Lots of lovely graphs regarding New Zealand’s vehicle fleet are available on the NZ Transport Agency page.

New Zealand is ideally suited to move forward rapidly in the rEVolution:

  • More than 80 percent of electricity comes from renewable energy resources, “and there is enough supply for widespread adoption of EVs.”
  • More than 85 percent of New Zealand homes have off-street parking, “making home charging easy and convenient.”
  • “We have a low average commute. Urban drivers only travel 22km a day — a distance batteries in current EVs can easily handle.”

New Zealand sells milk and beef, and buys cars and fossil fuels. Less dependence on fossil fuels will mean a better balance of trade. Most electricity is produced by hydro. It is a win, win, win for the NZ economy and the NZ people.

The market is only going to get tighter for fossil fuel vehicles in this market, as New Zealand introduced its Clean Car Standard on January 1st. Not only does a malus bonus or “feebate” (similar to what is applied in Europe) apply to car purchases, but now, car manufacturers will be fined for cars that exceed the CO2 emission standards. The finance sector is getting in on the action by offering low-interest loans for EV purchase. Stuff writes:

“By design, the Clean Car Standard is for the car industry, rather than buyers. It encourages importers to meet stringent carbon dioxide emissions targets, through either a ‘pay-as-you-go’ plan (more suited to those not importing many vehicles at a time) or a ‘fleet average’ scheme (the main importers in New Zealand).

“If the carbon emissions average of an importer’s fleet ends up over the limit it will get fined, while fleets under the limit get credits that can be used as a buffer for impending fines or traded to other brands. [Tesla and BYD will benefit from this.]

“The difference between it and the Clean Car Discount is that the Standard is designed to encourage the industry to bring cleaner cars into the country, while the Discount aims to encourage people to buy them.”

As for now, November figures indicate that the Ford Ranger (1527 units) is the highest selling vehicle in New Zealand, closely followed by the Tesla Model Y (1099). The Toyota Hilux completed the podium at 925. Also in the top 10 was the BYD Atto 3, at number six. The Atto 3’s strong month comes as the Chinese brand continues to grow its national footprint. Four new BYD dealer sites in New Plymouth, Botany Town Centre, Lower Hutt, and Dunedin are set to open before the end of the year.

Overall, 15,621 new vehicles were registered in November, representing a 4.3% drop year on year. Toyota was both the overall market leader (17%, 2709 units) and the passenger market leader (15%, 1654 units).

The Motor Industry Association’s Mark Stockdale says that the market continues to be impacted by the implications of the Clean Car Discount and upcoming Clean Car Standard. “There has been an increase in low emission vehicle sales and a sustained reduction in the sales of light commercial vehicles.”

The popularity of the Tesla Model Y continues to come at the expense of the Model 3, with the former outnumbering the latter almost four to one in November. Having accumulated 3358 registrations year-to-date, the Model Y is on target to be New Zealand’s most popular EV for the year.

In this new world, there may be unintended consequences, one pundit queries: “The growth of new energy vehicles is the bold new trend. It will also be interesting to watch the value of used ICE cars as this trend develops.”

2023 is shaping up to be another exciting year for EVs in NZ. Not just because of the CCS but also the electrification of tradie utes — the LDV eT60 ute is already on sale and a possible launch of the electric version of the Ford Ranger is likely to energise this market sometime soon as well.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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