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New Zealand Electric Car Guide

To see a short video about Electric Vehicles in NZ click here - Charge Up North

By Sigurd Magnusson, Wellington, NZ. 20 July 2016. Updated monthly. Download latest from Questions, corrections, feedback to or 021 42 12 08. Please share this document.1

Fully Electric Cars

These are cars that move using a large electric battery powering an electric motor. They do not take any petrol. Also called Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), they produce no exhaust, which is far kinder to the environment – petrol and diesel transport produce 17% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases.2 80% of New Zealand electricity is generated by rain (hydro dams), geothermal, and wind3, so the source of the car’s fuel is environmentally friendly, and inexpensive, and produced locally (We import over a billion dollars of petrol and three billion dollars of crude oil from overseas each year4 and local electricity generation is cheaper). A 2015 government study shows electric cars also have environmental benefits versus petrol cars when the full lifecycle of manufacture, use, and disposal are assessed, and that the ingredients like lithium in batteries, aren’t scarce.5 Having no exhaust, fully electric cars produce no poisonous carbon monoxide fumes.

Electric cars have no clutch or gears, and accelerate more quickly and smoothly, in a “sporty” way, and climb hills easier than petrol cars. A fully electric motor has fewer moving parts, no spark plugs or engine oil, and requires less maintenance than a petrol equivalent. Such cars are extremely quiet and reduce noise pollution. Travelling down hills or braking recharges the batteries, and is known as regenerative braking. The motor uses no energy when the car is still.

Electric cars are safe, reliable, manufactured by large brands, and are beginning to be sold in high volume overseas. Norway, with a similar population and size to New Zealand, has 90,000 fully electric cars, and they now account for more than 20% of all new car purchases6.

Entrylevel electric cars have a shorter range (100km+) than petrol cars. Highend cars with large batteries (400km+ range) cost more. Battery prices are dropping significantly, making long range fully electric cars cheaper every year7. On average New Zealand drivers travel 28km per day8, and 95% of days within 125km5 . Electric cars can be charged at home overnight and be ‘full’ in the morning, so affordable electric cars remain practical for most daily journeys. The census shows over half of New Zealand households have two or more cars9, suggesting many could drive electric but keep a backup fuel car. The dashboard displays how far you can drive with remaining battery.

In New Zealand the vast majority of fully electric cars are shortrange Nissan Leaf hatchbacks. Some full sized, longrange, high performance cars by Tesla Motors are found here and are very popular overseas. The upcoming Tesla Model 3 will provide the first medium range and cost electric vehicle in New Zealand, though its popularity will create long delivery times (400,000 were preordered globally within three weeks of launch). Over 2016, the arrival of electric cars by Tesla, Renault, BMW, and VW into New Zealand will broaden the selection of electric cars we can buy.

Plug-in Hybrids

These are cars that have both an electric and petrol motor. These cars are sometimes abbreviated as PHEVs (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles).

The electric battery can be recharged at home or wherever you find an electrical socket, and the fuel tank can be filled up at petrol stations. The purpose of this is to allow you to drive short distances electrically, at low cost and without pollution, and long distances using petrol, avoiding the need to recharge frequently for long trips. These vehicles also have regenerative braking, which captures energy that would be wasted as braking heat. They cost somewhere in the middle between affordable (short range) and expensive (long range) fully electric cars. The drawback of plugin hybrids is a more complicated engine requiring maintenance, the petrol refueling costs, air pollution, and noise of a petrol engine.

Depending on the model, the vehicle either has a petrol engine that also turns the wheels (“parallel PHEV”), or has a petrol generator which recharges the batteries that powers an electric motor to turn the wheels (“series PHEV”). Some vehicles allow you to switch between these two modes. In time, plugin hybrids will be replaced by full electrics when battery prices drop enough in price.

The most purchased vehicle in this category in New Zealand is the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV. The BMW i3 hatchback (over 100km electric range) and the Holden Volt sedan (76km range, but sold out) are in contrast to several PHEVs that have rather short (under 30km) electric range.

Conventional Hybrids No longer Count

Cars such as the conventional Toyota Prius Hybrid found in this country10 over the past decade are different–they can not be plugged into an electric socket to recharge. They can only fill up on petrol, and use the petrol motor and regenerative braking to recharge a small battery that gives a short (12 km) electric range. This brings helpful reductions to fuel consumption and emissions versus classic fuel cars, however plugin electric cars are vastly superior.

What About Hydrogen?

A visible debate is forming about whether the longterm future of cars would use hydrogen fuel cells or stored electricity (i.e. batteries) for energy.

Hydrogen does not occur on earth naturally, and must be created, either from fossil energy resources (which would release greenhouse gases), or by using electricity. The hydrogen must then be pressurised, stored, transported, and converted back into electricity inside the car, to power its electric motor. The car produces water exhaust (about a litre per 16km driven).

Fully electric cars on the other hand, are simpler than hydrogren, use less energy, and it is a quarter of the cost to generate electricity, send it through the electrical grid, and recharge batteries.

No hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (HFCVs) are available in New Zealand, and they are produced in very limited quantities globally.11

Fully Electric Cars in New Zealand

The Motor Industry Association surveyed manufacturers and found 16 new full electric models and 28 new plugin hybrid models are expected to come to New Zealand between 2016 and 202014.

Driving Range

The Electric Range of a car can be overstated in marketing material. A US government agency measures the range of all electric vehicles for sale using a standardised test and publishes this information at This is known as “EPA range” and assumes a mix of road speeds (highway and suburban) to reflect a typical journey.

A number of situations will result in a car using up its battery before reaching the EPA range. For example (and particularly if combined) frequent strong acceleration, climbing significant hills, constant high speeds, use of air conditioning or heaters, towing a trailer, and battery age. Conversely, travelling slowly or staying on flat terrain can enable you to exceed EPA ratings.

The European electric car range test (NEDC) is less useful as it gives overly generous figures about electric range and (in the case of PHEVs) fuel and CO2 savings.

Expensive Upfront; Cheaper Overall

The main cost of an electric car is its upfront purchase. Electric cars are currently more expensive to buy new than fuel vehicles, largely due to battery prices and low production volume. Within a decade, it will be cheaper for car manufacturers to build electric cars than fuel cars.15

Travelling by electricity is cheaper than petrol: EECA calculates it is equivalent to 30 cents a litre, about 7 times cheaper than petrol.16 An electric car owner can save a few thousand dollars a year, quickly paying off the higher car purchase price. Fewer moving parts means electric cars have less maintenance cost. See calculator:

The cost of electricity varies more than petrol. Recharging with electricity can be free (if your employer or a friendly business or council is paying instead of you!), low cost (overnight offpeak electricity rates are cheaper than daytime, if you select a good plan or provider), or higher cost (if you recharge during the day, or are paying to use a fastcharging station).

Assuming you commute 40km a day, you would probably need about 8 units of electricity (kWh) to recharge, which at a low overnight rate of 11 cents per kWh would be $0.88 a day. Overnight charging is good for the national electricity grid because it is at its lowest demand, meaning the power is likely generated with renewables, not coal and gas. If your car has a smart timer, set the ‘End charging time’ to just before 7am, so your battery isn’t full for long, and so it randomises the start time, which is better for the power companies.

Global Leaders

Electric cars are supported in various ways by most countries. Regulations in America and Europe force car companies to sell cleaner cars every year. By 2025 these will mandate 22% of cars sold in many US states must be electric17. Over 200 European cities have low emission zones where fuel vehicles are prevented entry or pay fees (e.g. Paris, London). These help governments to achieve international climate change commitments by encouraging car owners to shift to electric cars, reducing carbon dioxide and cancercausing diesel emissions. A typical petrol car emits more than its weight in CO2 a year (2 tonnes). Norway and Holland have goals that all vehicle sales will be electric from 2025, with Germany, U.K., California, New York and others agreeing to follow suit in later years as part of an international alliance ( Global leadership in generating electric car adoption comes from Tesla Motors and its visionary leader Elon Musk.18

Norway has the greatest incentives globally, and has a similar population, land size, vehicle count, and a higher proportion of renewable electricity as NZ. Norway charges a big purchase tax (average $20,000) when buying a fuel vehicle, and offers substantial discounts to electric vehicles (no 25% sales tax, halved fringe benefit tax, plus a $10,000+ discount), and offers free use of bus lanes, toll roads, urban street parking, and charging stations. This led to 105,000 vehicles (80% fully electric) and 7000 charging points in 4 years19. Denmark has similar incentives to Norway but only 4000 electric cars, likely because people don’t understand electric cars running on their mostly coalbased electricity are cleaner than petrol cars.

New Zealand - Policies and Growth

The New Zealand government supports electric cars with a publicly stated target (a doubling of electric vehicles every year to 64,000 by 2021, about 2% of all vehicles, and about one in eight cars entering NZ being electric), a $1M/year (for 5 years) nationwide education and promotion campaign led by EECA, offering money to fund projects that aid electric car adoption (from a fund of $6 million per year), making it legal to decide to put electric vehicles in bus lanes and highoccupancy vehicle lanes on the State Highway network and local roads, and coordination efforts across government agencies and business to support: bulk purchase, public charging infrastructure, and decisionmaking. A review of tax depreciation and fringe benefit tax for electric vehicles is underway. This was announced in May 2016 (details:

The government does not charge road user charges (RUCs) on electric vehicles. This rule began in 2009, and will be continue until light vehicles reach 2% of the fleet. These save an electric car owner $620 versus a small diesel car if driving 10,000km a year. From 2016 the RUC exemption covers electric vehicles over 3 tons (buses and trucks) and will continue until 2025 or until 2% of heavy vehicles are electric. Full electrics and plugin hybrids currently pay about $230 a year in vehicle licensing, about $100 more than petrol cars. Some of the cost of petrol pays ACC; when you buy electricity, you are not funding ACC, so a higher "non petrol car" ACC vehicle levy is paid. Conventional hybrids buy petrol so use the cheaper ACC levy.20

New Zealand electric car growth is steadily rising. When they replace all of New Zealand’s three million vehicles they will demand about 10% more electricity from our power grid, which is available already in the form of consented renewable, clean power stations.21

A 2015 report on electric car policy was published by Barry Barton at University of Waikato22. It compared electric vehicle growth in different countries, and determined New Zealand electric car growth would benefit from a costneutral “feebate” scheme, like that used in France. This is where the government adds a cost to buying “dirty” cars and uses that money to reduce the cost of electric and fuelefficient cars. The report noted New Zealand is one of the only countries to have no fuel efficiency standards, which place costs or restrictions on buying high emission cars. The Green Party has made policy suggestions23.

Electric vehicle adoption is supported by an electric vehiclespecific industry association ( and owner association (

Charging Your Car

A New Unit of Measurement

We use kilowatt-hours (kWh) not litres to measure electricity, so you’re unlikely to talk to electric car drivers about dollars per litre, and instead hear them discuss:

  • cents per kWh, the cost of electricity; determines the cost of travelling and charging
  • km per kWh, similar to ‘miles per gallon’, or how far you’re driving for a unit of electricity
  • kWh as a size of battery, which gives you an idea of how far you can drive (range)
  • kW as a speed of charging, which gives you an idea of how quick to recharge

Depending on driving style and car, you can usually expect to travel around 5 to 6km per kWh. Most car charging happens overnight. A study of 8000 U.S. electric car owners showed 85% of charging was at home, much of the remainder at work, and occasionally elsewhere.24

The regular 230 volt AC electricity in our homes, and the regular socket we use for all household appliances is all you need to recharge your car. You may see U.S. or other websites describe “Level 1” or “Level 2” charging. Level 1 describes the ~100 voltage found in USA and Japan, which is half what we have in New Zealand. This is very slow and has no relevance in New Zealand. Level 2 describes the 230 volts found in New Zealand. Level 3 is very high current fast charging.

Normal 3 pin socket (S3112)
8-10 amps, single phase AC 230V 1.8 2.3 kW
This is what you find throughout New Zealand homes and offices. For most people, it is sufficient to charge their cars overnight during low-cost off peak hours (11pm-7am), but is too slow to be very useful for daytime recharging. This socket is probably what you already have inside your garage at home.
If your car doesn’t come with a connector for this socket, you can purchase a portable 8 amp unit at

Note: A larger 15 amp version of this 3-pin plug/socket is available, however is not recommended for continual use; the higher current warms the small metal pins, posing a fire risk.
Blue Commando (IEC 60309)
16 amps, single phase AC 230V 3.7 kW
These are the plugs found in campgrounds all over the country, used by campervans. Having an connector for this socket lets you recharge in many locations around the country, and allows a higher current, faster charge. You can get an electrician to fit this socket at home. The thick metal pins are well suited to repeated, prolonged use and rugged outdoor conditions, and won’t heat up as easily, reducing fire risk. One supplier of Blue Commando based equipment is

Unless a car is parked for many hours, this is rather slow for daytime recharging, but it does provide a very low cost solution.
Dedicated “slow chargers”
15-40 amps, single phase AC 230V 3-9kW (Type 1 or 2 connector)
1845km per hour recharging 100km takes 25 hours


32 amps, three phase AC 415V 22kW (Type 2 connector)
110km per hour recharging 100km takes just under an hour

For around $800 or more, you can buy a dedicated wallmounted charger. These reduce the time it takes to start and stop charging; you don’t have to grab or stow the charging cable in your car.

Fancier units able to take payment from users, draw much higher current, display information on your smartphone26, or in the future, return electricity from your car back into your home.

The unit will either come with or without a cable. If it comes with a tethered cable then it is limited to specific car types, unless the car brings an adapter. If the unit has no cable, it is more versatile as any car can use it, so long as they bring a cable. Either way the connectors are specific to electric cars, deterring others using the equipment, potentially helpful in public locations.

Cars have a maximum pace of charging; e.g. older Nissan Leafs can charge up to 3.6 kW and newer Leafs up to 6.6 kW, so while a dedicated 22 kW charger will work, it will charge only as fast as the car supports. On the other hand, a Renault Zoe and Tesla Motors cars can charge up to 22 kW, and drivers might be impatient when using a lower-rated unit.

These units (especially 3phase 22kW) provide fast enough speeds to suit users parked at destinations (e.g. workplaces, supermarkets), without the cost of fast chargers (below). Public destinations should offer multiple connector types.

Fast Chargers
80+ amps, 415V, 3 phase input, inverted and supplied to car as DC. (50kW and higher27)
250km per hour recharging 100km takes 25 minutes28

All of the earlier options take hours for a car to recharge. Fast chargers by comparison take only around 25 minutes for cars with small batteries, and do this by providing a much greater amount of electricity (at least 20 times the amount found in your regular residential socket). Like petrol, you can choose just to ‘top up’ your car and put in a few minutes’ worth of power.

This type of charging equipment is expensive to purchase and install (tens of thousands of dollars). They are purchased by organisations and put in key locations where a high volume of car owners can drive to, such as supermarkets or petrol stations. They are illsuited to locations where people intend to park for hours; a slower charger would be more appropriate there.

Fast chargers are useful to enable electric cars to tour the country, or for drivers unable to wait for or access a slow charger.

Your car will normally come with a portable cable for only one of the two wallsockets pictured on the previous page. Consider owning your car for a few weeks so you can confirm whether you actually need to buy another cable, socket, or charging unit. Do not allow a car dealer to sell you a cable for a Japanese shaped wall socket; this will be unsafe. It must be designed for NZ use.

Car Connectors And Inlets

The connector/inlet on the car is designed specifically to be durable for continuous use and to be safe. There are multiple standards based on manufacturer, country, and charging speed. The following is based on typical configuration for cars in New Zealand29:

Adapters can be used (e.g. to allow a CHAdeMO fast charge connector to fit the Type 2shaped inlet on a Tesla car, or to convert between Type 1 and 2 slow charging connectors for any car).

In Europe it is standard for slow chargers units to have no cable; drivers bring a cable (pictured) to connect into a Type 2 socket in the “wall”.

Overseas, wireless charging (also known as induction) is becoming available.

Calculating Recharging Times

Charging speed is rated in kW and battery capacity in kWh. For example, a 7kW charger takes 10 hours to recharge a 70kWh battery. In practice, the times vary slightly because a little energy is lost to heat, and the last 10% or so of a battery is charged less quickly to preserve battery health.

Where Can I Charge?

Besides home, which is where the majority of charging takes place, some employers are providing slow charging sockets in staff car parks. There are also public charging locations:

  • A national network of nearly 100 fast chargers being installed by long distance electric car travel along state highways. The first stations were installed in 2015 and the network is growing month to month. (Map below right)
  • Fast chargers separately provided by electricity companies in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Hastings, Nelson, and Dunedin.
  • A nationwide coverage of hotels, motels and campervan grounds where you can plug in at powered car parks for slow charging. These often require a Blue Commando plug.
  • Tesla is expected to build its own charging network but have not given timelines.
Slow Charging (for destinations)
Fast Charging Network

Visit (pictured left) or use the PlugShare smartphone app for a map of charging locations, complete with costs and other details.

If you offer car charging to staff, customers, or the public, you should certainly list it on PlugShare (it’s free). Include a description on whether charging is free to the public, free to customers, or paid, or restricted to employees, the hours of operation (hopefully 24/7!), connector types and electrical power, and upload photos to promote your listing. Add signage to the physical space (e.g. “Electric car charging only”), to increase public awareness of electric cars, and to avoid petrol cars blocking the park.

Right: Official NZ electric vehicle sign ( )

Batteries: Size, Life, Replacement

Electric car batteries weigh several hundred kilograms and sit in the floor of the car. This gives the cars a low centre of gravity, adding stability when cornering and accelerating.

Battery size is measured in kilowatthours, or kWh. Lower priced electric cars have ~24 kWh batteries and the highend Tesla Motors cars come close to 100 kWh. This affects range and cost.

The life of a battery is reduced when at extreme high or low levels of charge30. To avoid cars reaching either end, not all of the battery capacity is made available.

You can lengthen the life of your battery by fully charging it only on occasion (hence the “80% charge” option on most cars) and by avoiding the car being left too long at a high or low level of charge (e.g. finishing your charge at 7am is ideal, but if it gets totally flat, recharge a bit straight away. The battery will last longer if it is generally around a third to half charged. Hot temperatures (particularly over 30°C) reduce battery life. Excessive (more than daily, for years) fastcharging will slightly reduce battery life31.

Nissan state expected battery capacity to reduce to 80% after 5 years and 70% at 10 years, assuming 20,000km of annual driving in a Los Angeles climate (1030°C, average ~20°C)32. Car manufacturers use different battery chemistries which may offer different lifespans. You can assess battery capacity on the dashboard or smartphone app when you test drive a car33. While minor loss of capacity is typical in a used vehicle (e.g. 10%), you might be saving half or a third of the cost of a new car, and the range will be still be higher than a typical daily drive. Car batteries have warranties, but conditions vary. Only some dealers provide warranties with used imports.

Eventually the battery will need replacement. It can then be recycled or, reused, for example by homeowners who want to store electricity from solar panels or overnight off-peak power.

  • You may be able to buy a battery with more capacity than the car initially came with.
  • You may need to replace only individual dead cells, at a lower price than a full replacement.
  • A new Nissan Leaf battery costs little under $10,000 (2015); prices are quickly falling.

Go For A Test Drive!

The experience of test-driving an electric car is what commonly gives buyers the confidence to proceed with the purchase. You can test drive an electric car by asking a dealer, asking existing owners if they’re prepared to let you drive theirs, or rent some by the day from

Where To Buy And Get Service?

Used and new car dealers throughout New Zealand sell electric vehicles. You will find many listings by selecting “Fuel Type: Electric” in the Advanced Car Search at . Tesla sells direct from their website. Cars bought in the Japan or the U.K. are eligible for electric car incentives and these can reduce the price of imports by thousands of dollars.

If buying a used car from Japan, the dashboard consoles are usually not in English, but some dealers replace these with English systems but this can reduce dashboard features. Official local support and service is found for the models above (except Tesla, which is coming soon).

What About Other Types Of Vehicles?

  • Bicycles: commonly sold in local bicycle shops, with 40100km “pedal assisted” range.
  • Motorbikes: (kiwi made, off-road); (import, for road).
  • Formula racing cars now compete in “Formula E”, a global tournament ( ).
  • Tuk tuks” are used for tourism34 and one-seat delivery buggies are used by NZ Post.35
  • Trucks are locally made by; hybrid utes and SUVs by US-based, and (with an ex Tesla, kiwi founder) is building hybrid heavy trucks36.
  • Fully electric buses are mass produced by; London is buying hundreds37. New Zealand may gain hundreds of plugin hybrid buses by Wrightspeed from late 201638.
  • The world’s first electric ferry launched in 2015 in Norway (carries 300 people, 120 cars)39.
  • Prototype electric airplanes exist. “Solar Impulse 2” aims in 2016 to fly around the world.

Community Groups and Events

Several events and active Facebook groups are run and organised by electric car owners, e.g.:

EVolocity, the largest annual national electric vehicle event, including test drives, demonstrations, workshops, competitions between petrol and electric race cars, and a high-school competition in which teams design and build their own electric vehicles. (Last was Nov 2015).

Leading the Charge, an annual roadtrip of Tesla and other electric cars from the north to the south of New Zealand, stopping in towns for display. Organised by the Better New Zealand Trust ( (Next: April 2017)

Facebook “EV Owner” groups


1 This document is released under the Creative Commons Attributions license at
2 MfE carbon inventory May 2016
3 2015 MBIE report
5 ECCA Life Cycle Assessment of EVs
8 2010-2013 Distance per driver trends
10 Toyota Prius introduced a Plugin Hybrid (PHEV) model in 2009; in NZ it is rare and only available imported. In 2016 Toyota released the Prius Prime, which improves electric range to over 30km, but there is no word on when it might come to NZ.
11 More information and sources about the hydrogen section:
A test-drive of a hydrogen versus electric car is contrasted at
Essay by hydrogen race-car builder has published essay at
12 Costs from TradeMe and Range is U.S. EPA, sourced from (except where supplied by dealers to cover gaps).
13 NZ Vehicle quantites from
14 Full breakdown:
15 Malcolm McCulloch (Oxford University, UK),,-conference-told
17 Look up CARB (US) and CAFE (US), and EU CO 2 regulations, e.g.
18 provides a comprehensive look at Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX.
19 European EV policies: Graph:
20 ACC levy costs can be found at ; more info at
24 See 0h50m on EVTV show and various other research papers at
25 km/hour charging on this and next page is a rough guide on the basis of 5 km per kW; you’ll go a little further in flat/urban driving.
26 Pictured EVSE: JuiceBox 40 by eMotorWerks, crowdfunded via KickStarter, available via
27 50kW is typical in NZ. Tesla “SuperChargers” charge as high as 135kW. See
28 Assuming your battery is large enough and you travel 5km per kWh; you could go further with urban/flat driving.
29 Vector diagrams for the sockets available
30 Wealth of battery information at ; Dalhousie Uni lecture by Jeff Dahn
31 US government study on slow vs fast charging:
33 Nissan Leaf shows health on dashboard; LeafSpy is an iOS / Android app showing more detail. Similar tools exist for other cars.