New Zealand Achieves 30% Plugin Vehicle Penetration

Back in August, CleanTechnica brought the news that New Zealand (a tiny Pacific nation) had reached a 12% plug-in car sales penetration rate. Now New Zealand has reached 30%! Much of the reaction in August centered around one-off factors, with many feeling that this was a blip and the situation would return to normal. One of the reasons cited was that the Tesla Model Y and BYD Atto 3 had just landed, and since they accounted for 70% of EV sales, the wave was likely to subside. Well, the blip gets bigger and the wave gets louder. It looks like New Zealand has achieved 30% plugin penetration for the first time.

Figures released by the New Zealand Department of Transport show that of the almost 100,000 light vehicles sold in 2022, almost 20% were fully electric (BEVs), 10% were plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and 50% were conventional plug-in hybrids (HEVs). There was not much space left for petrol and diesel cars. Lots of beautiful graphs relating to New Zealand’s vehicle fleet are available on the NZ Transport Agency site.

New Zealand is ideally suited to rapidly advance the revolution:

  • More than 80 percent of electricity comes from renewable energy resources, “and there is enough supply for widespread use of electric cars.”
  • More than 85 percent of New Zealand homes have off-street parking, “making home charging easy and convenient.”
  • “We have a low average commute. City drivers only travel 22 km per day – a distance that batteries in current electric cars 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 of the electricity is produced by hydropower. It’s a win, win, win for the NZ economy and the NZ people.

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

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

“If the average CO2 emissions of an importer’s fleet ends up above the limit, it will be fined, while fleets below the limit will be given 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 Rebate is that the standard is designed to encourage industry to bring cleaner cars into the country, while the rebate aims to encourage people to buy them.”

For now, figures from November show the Ford Ranger (1527 units) is the best-selling car 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, number six. Atto 3’s strong month comes as the Chinese brand continues to grow its national footprint. Four new BYD dealerships in New Plymouth, Botany Town Centre, Lower Hutt and Dunedin are due to open before the end of the year.

Overall, 15,621 new vehicles were registered in November, representing a 4.3% year-on-year decrease. 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 the market remains affected by the implications of the Clean Car Discount and the upcoming Clean Car Standard. “There has been an increase in sales of low-emission vehicles and a sustained reduction in 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 nearly four to one in November. Having accumulated 3358 registrations year to date, the Model Y is on course to become New Zealand’s most popular electric car of the year.

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

2023 promises to be another exciting year for electric cars in NZ. Not only because of CCS, but also the electrification of traditional machines – the LDV eT60 ute is already on sale, and a possible launch of the electric version of the Ford Ranger is likely to energize this market sometime soon as well.


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