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EV uptake on the rise as new Tesla model leads the charge

Thursday 3rd October 2019

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The uptake of electric vehicles is on the rise as pure EVs broke into the top three passenger/SUV models registered for the first time last month, Motor Industry Association figures show.

September saw 14,525 new vehicles registered, a rise of 4.4 percent from the year before. There were 500 sales of pure electric vehicles during the month and a further 105 sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles, the MIA said.

The Tesla Model 3 led the charge, with 379 sold in the month. The car sells for around $75,900 to $102,900 depending on the specs. In comparison, a new Nissan Leaf, the country's most common EV, sells for $59,990. 

So far this year, 1,406 new pure EVs have been registered compared to 768 in the prior year. At the end of August, there were 16,031 electric and hybrid light vehicle registrations according to data from the Ministry of Transport. That is up from 9,762 in August 2018 and 4,596 in August 2017.

While the number of EVs is increasing, New Zealand's economic slowdown may curb that growth.  Total new vehicle registrations recovered slightly in September but they were down about 4 percent in the January-to-September period, compared with the first nine months of the prior year, the MIA data showed. 

New Zealand's vehicle market has been cooling after hitting record levels for the past five years. The market had been buoyed by high migration levels, low interest rates and the strong New Zealand dollar. While interest rates remain low, a  near 7 percent drop in the kiwi dollar against the US dollar since the beginning of the year has increased the cost of imports and migration numbers have also flattened. 

Not-for-profit Drive Electric says New Zealand would have to triple average sales of 485 EVs a month to reach the government’s goal of having 64,000 on the road by 2021, something that is looking increasingly unlikely.

The push to EVs is a key plank in the government’s plan to tackle climate change, with transport making up 19 percent of the country's emissions. Among other things, its Low Emission’s Vehicles Contestable Fund provides up to $7 million a year to co-fund projects with private and public sector partners.   

In total, $20.9 million of government funding has been provided for 120 projects and that has been matched by $40.7 million applicant funding.

A key focus has been to develop a nationwide electric vehicle charging network.

ChargetNet NZ, for example, now owns and operates 170 stations across the country according to its website and another 35 are under construction. Other companies such as Meridian Energy are in the process of expanding the EV charging network and has received government co-funding to install stations in Franz Josef Glacier, Aoraki Mount Cook Village, Te Anau, and Christchurch. KiwiRail is putting chargers on its ferries and Kiwi Property is installing them in shopping malls like Sylvia Park.

The government also recently announced a plan to introduce price incentives to encourage EV uptake, including a vehicle purchase feebate scheme to effectively reduce the price of electric vehicles.


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