Electric Vehicles Proliferate in New Zealand Market

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With over a dozen new models being released in New Zealand this year, it looks like the NZ electric vehicle buyer will be spoilt for choice. Most of these vehicles have already been released in the UK right-hand-drive market. But for those of you who wish to taste a great summary, have a look.

The list includes the Great Wall Motors Ora Cat; the Opel Corsa and Mokka-e; the Fiat 500e; the Ssanyong Kurando e-Motion; two Peugeots — the 208 and the 2008. Ford will be there with the Mustang Mach-e. Volkswagen will launch the ID twins 3 & 4. And Hyundai the Ioniq 6. LDV will have the MIFA 5, and of course its electric ute — the EVT60 — an EV for the Kiwi.

New Zealand Market
Meet the eT60, New Zealand’s first pure electric dual-cab ute.

According to Transport NZ, the country reached a penetration of 20% new vehicles sales being electric by the end of 2022. This includes buses, trucks, scooters, BEVs, and PHEVs. See the graph here.

Although the NZ EV market is rising, it is still dominated by fossil fuelled vehicles. James at EVDB has some great graphs on the various types of powertrains and their respective market share. Monthly fluctuations are quite significant due to a lack of a domestic manufacturer. All EVs are imported to New Zealand, as they also are to Australia. However, EV registrations doubled from 2021 to 2022. The yearly average was 10.7% of all new light vehicles being fitted with a plug.

So far, in the two months of 2023, 8.6% of new registrations are electric. This figure needs to be taken in context — the three-month average of 11.9% is more reflective of trends. March figures should show a further increase as imports arrive. Diesel powertrains remain stable – due to the large number of diesel-powered utes being registered each month. Hybrids (especially HEVs) and BEVs are taking their market share from petrol-powered vehicles.

Tesla holds 23% of the EV market and 3% of the overall automotive market. MG, BYD, and Hyundai are all on 2% of the overall market. Feel free to access the clickable chart here.

HEV sales surged in the first quarter of 2022 and have gone on to triple their penetration rate compared to 2020. There is life in Toyota’s technology yet. It is not dead tech walking in New Zealand. This was a result of favourable government policy towards low-emission vehicles. I would hope that in time the NZ government would follow the example of the EU and tighten the policy to exclude any vehicle that uses fossil fuels.

From a slow start, NZ’s clean car rebate and an increasing choice of EV models lead to a doubling of market share from July 2021 to the end of 2022. EVDB points out the particular challenges facing the NZ auto market as it moves along the S-curve of technology disruption: “Exponential growth is just one possible forecast, but seems unlikely due to the following:

  • NZ is at an early stage of EV adoption, and many see EVs as a compromise or too early of a technology.
  • Only 13% of car purchases in New Zealand are new, 11% are used imports [many of these used imports are Nissan Leafs from Japan], and 76% are existing used cars.
  • Many buyers are opting for hybrid cars to save on fuel costs.
  • Hybrid cars may delay the uptake of used EVs and negatively impact their values.
  • The residual value of EVs may have a flatter profile and a more dramatic drop at the end of the warranty period.
  • The NZ market is quite different from European car markets (demonstrating a strong S-curve).
  • NZ relies on the Japanese Domestic Market for most of used car stock. Japan has a good supply of hybrids but very little supply of BEVs (Japan has very low EV adoption).
  • Future economic outlook – the possibility of a recession and declining property values may dampen the mood for new vehicle purchases.
  • NZ has a very aggressive light truck (ute) market. The market share of these (predominantly diesel) vehicles has shown no sign of changing.
  • The global EV market has experienced significant supply constraints (on some models).
  • Unprecedented global demand for metals used in battery production.
  • The future of government policy assisting EV uptake is uncertain.
  • Charging infrastructure is critical to EV adoption.
  • Rapid technological changes can lead to an Osborne effect. Consumers delay new vehicle purchases as an even better model is coming soon.
  • It may be that New Zealand experiences a more linear growth of EV market share.

However, if the S-curve eventuates, by mid-2026, 50% of light vehicles registered in NZ will be EVs. This also means only 50% will be ICE vehicles, representing a significant disruption for car makers who have been slow to electrify.”

New Zealand Market

NZ government inertia could also be added to the issues listed above. As Stuff NZ points out:

“Private owners are apparently annoyed that the NZ government is still buying petrol- and diesel-powered cars for their fleet. Stuff reports that over 1000 have been added over the past 3 years.

“Sustainability consultant Nick Morrison is one business owner who’s switched over. He and his fellow director got rid of their cheap runabout petrol vehicles, and replaced them with lease-share EVs for at least four years.

“To learn that at the same time, the Government has been increasing their number of internal combustion engine vehicles by nearly a thousand is incredibly disheartening and hard to comprehend,” he says. “You take a lot of punches working in sustainability and this is one of the bigger ones.”

The NZ government set a target of mid-2025 for its fleet to be emissions free. They also set rules in place requiring the chief executive to “sign off’ on the purchase of a fossil-fuelled vehicle taking into account that all options for EVs had been considered and an EV purchase would prevent the government agency from undertaking a core function.

NZ police have trialled EVs but found that they cannot manage the “severe operational demands” placed on the police cars. I would suggest they need to check in with police forces in the USA and Europe that are using EVs.

New Zealand Market
Kona EV police cars.

As an example: one government department, Kāinga Ora, designs new inner-city community housing developments. In 2021, the agency had 365 petrol and diesel vehicles; now it has 8, augmented with 684 hybrid petrol cars and 225 BEVs. Progress.

“Due to technological, infrastructure and supply chain constraints in recent times, some agencies have retained or purchased lower emission petrol hybrid vehicles,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw says. The change is not happening as fast as expected. “I think inertia in the system is one of the greatest forces that we’ve been fighting against the entire time,” he said.

With 14,000 public sector cars coming to the end of their life in the next three years, there will be opportunities to purchase new electric cars for government needs and a few more ex-government BEVs on the second-hand market. Shaw is hopeful that 41% of the light vehicle fleet will be electric by the end of 2025.

In the meantime, the NZ Facebook page for EV owners contains comments about new EV ownership, from people booking test drives of the Ioniq 6 and the Skoda Enyaq to new owners celebrating their purchase of a Corsa-e.

New Zealand Market
Skoda Enyaq.

As more electric utes and light trucks become available in New Zealand, we should see a dramatic shift in the farming sector. When the government acts more strongly on its own rhetoric, that will also add to the penetration rate. The curve in NZ is heading up.

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David Waterworth

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].

David Waterworth has 729 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth