Electric vehicles

An electric vehicle, or EV, has a different engine to a petrol or diesel fuelled car – it has a motor that is powered by a battery which is charged by plugging it into an electric power point (a bit like charging your cellphone battery).

The motor of an EV is very quiet and extremely responsive. Driving an electric car produces 80% fewer CO2 emissions than a petrol car – making an EV much better for the environment.

 

Types of electric vehicles

There are two main types of electric vehicle:

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) - these are a purely electric vehicle, fuelled only by the battery which is charged by plugging into an electric power point, for example the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Tesla S. The Renault Kangoo and Nissan eNV200 vans are also available in New Zealand.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – these have two engines – one fuelled by a battery which is charged by plugging into an electric power point, the other engine is fuelled from a fuel tank and generally uses petrol or diesel. Examples include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, BMW i3 (range extender model) and Audi e-tron.

Hybrids that you can’t plug-in are more fuel efficient than a comparable petrol car but they are not electric vehicles. Their batteries are only charged by re-capturing energy when braking or from electricity generated by the engine. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid are examples of these kinds of hybrids.

 Hybrid vehicles

Electric vehicles available in New Zealand

Mass produced electric cars have been on sale to the New Zealand public since 2011, both new and as second-hand imports.

Electric vehicles are often more expensive to purchase, especially if buying new, but cost far less to operate than petrol and diesel vehicles - the equivalent of paying 30c per litre for petrol. This means that if you look at the total cost of owning a vehicle, rather than just the one-off purchase price, an EV is a great option for your next car.

Advantages of electric vehicles

Infographic showing the advantages of electric vehicles.

There are many reasons for you to choose an electric vehicle over a petrol or diesel vehicle:

  • Cheaper to run – the cost of charging an EV is equivalent to paying around 30 cents per litre for petrol.
  • Charge up at home – EVs can be charged anywhere there is a power point, just like charging your cellphone. You can wake up to a ‘full tank’ every morning by plugging in at home, and never have to go out of your way to a petrol station again.
  • Pollution-free driving - BEVs don’t have a tailpipe and produce no exhaust emissions that cause local air pollution.
  • Noise reduction - EVs are quieter than petrol or diesel vehicles.
  • 80% reduction in CO2 emissions in New Zealand - this significant reduction in emissions is because 80% of New Zealand’s electricity is generated from renewable sources. There are also many other advantages to using this home-grown energy compared with using imported fossil fuels.
  • Fewer lifecycle emissions - even when you take into account raw material extraction, battery manufacture, vehicle manufacture and shipping, BEVs emit 60% fewer climate change emissions over their full life cycle than for petrol vehicles.
  • More efficient - EVs can convert well over 90% of energy from their batteries into moving the car. This compares to 20% - 30% energy conversion for a petrol or diesel vehicle.

In 2015 EECA commissioned a lifecycle analysis of the environmental impact of electric vehicles (EVs) compared to internal combustion engine vehicles (petrol and diesel). The report confirmed that EVs are better for the New Zealand environment than petrol or diesel powered vehicles, across the lifecycle of the vehicle as well as in use.

Infographic summarising the report’s findings on the life cycle of electric vehicles - EECA website

Life cycle assessment of electric vehicles - executive summary of the report conducted by international consultancy team ARUP and Verdant Vision - EECA website

Challenges of electric vehicles

    • Price – new EVs tend to cost more to buy than equivalent conventional cars, but much lower running costs will help offset the initial higher price tag. Used import electric cars can compare well with the price of equivalent used petrol or diesel vehicles.
    • Range - most EVs don’t travel as far on a full-charge as petrol or diesel vehicles travel on a full tank. However, the average daily travel by car in New Zealand is less than 29 km – easily within the range of EVs, and 90% of all journeys are under 90 km. As battery and vehicle technology improves, and fast charging stations become commonplace, range will become less of an issue. If you are concerned about range, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle may be a better option for you, but you won’t get the significant reduction in maintenance cost that you will for a purely electric vehicle.
    • Battery re-use and recycling –  if an EV battery reaches the end of its vehicle life, it may still have a useful second life, for example storing electricity from solar PV panels. Manufacturers of electric vehicles already have recycling programmes in place. Members of the Motor Industry Association of New Zealand have committed to a code of practice to have suitable systems in place for the use, capture, return, refurbishment, reuse, recycling or disposal of EV and hybrid batteries with the aim of no batteries ending up in landfills.

 Code of practice - Motor Industry Association of New Zealand website

Charging electric vehicles

The cost of charging an EV is like buying petrol for 30 cents a litre.

The cheapest and easiest way to charge your EV is by plugging it in overnight at home. You can do this by plugging into a standard power point using the portable charging cable that normally comes with your EV, or plug into a fixed charging unit. An overnight charge will cost up to $3 per 100km.

A fixed wall mounted or pedestal charger that is permanently wired in is the most convenient way to charge but it may add a cost to your initial EV purchase. There are indoor and outdoor options available to suit where your EV is parked at home and with the right charging connection for your EV.

These fixed chargers make it quick to plug in when you get home and easy to time charging to start when the overnight tariff begins (check if your electricity retailer has an EV tariff and at what time it starts). They can also make it easy to keep cables tidy, and means the portable charging cable can stay in the car boot for when you’re out and about.

If you don’t want to, or can’t, install a fixed charging unit at your home, charging your EV can be as easy as plugging your portable charging cable into a wall socket in your garage or an outdoor rated power point.

If you’re out and about and want to charge at a public EV charging station, you can find one near you using the Plugshare app or website. Plugshare allows you to find a charging station with the correct plug type for your car and by speed of charge available (e.g. fast chargers show up with an orange icon).

Location of charging stations - PlugShare website

Safety and other regulations for electric vehicles

Electric vehicles have to meet the same regulations as any other vehicles on the road.

  • Road safety - like all other cars, electric cars have to meet safety standards and other road-worthiness requirements to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users.
  • Electrical safety regulations - any chargers that use mains electricity must meet New Zealand's Electrical Safety regulations and Standards.
  • Road user charges (RUCs) - to encourage people to buy EVs, the Government has provided an exemption on RUCs until 2021. The exemption is valued at around $600 per year.

ANCAP safety ratings - Rightcar website

Charging your electric vehicle safely - Energy Safety website

Guidelines for public electric vehicle charging station connections - NZTA website

Electric vehicles programme

In September 2016 the Electric Vehicles website was launched.

Electric Vehicles website

In May 2016 the Government announced the electric vehicles programme.

EECA’s components of the electric vehicle programme - EECA website

Electric vehicles for businesses - EECA Business website

Electric vehicles programme announcement - Ministry of Transport website