Kiwi car owners more open to buying electric vehicles

More Kiwis are warming to electric cars.
More Kiwis are warming to electric cars. Photo credit: Getty

Despite greater up-front costs, Kiwis are more open to forking out for an electric car (EV) than ever before.

According to a survey by Trade Me, 74 percent of New Zealanders were now considering buying an electric vehicle, a figure up from 50 percent the year before. The survey asked more than 1300 people.

Despite the upswing in idealism, though, Trade Me's head of motors, Alan Clark, says when it comes time to part with their cash, most Kiwis end up sticking with the status quo. 

"While three-quarters of respondents said they would consider an EV, when the rubber hits the road, they are most likely to buy a petrol vehicle next," says Clark. 

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their next car purchase would most likely be a petrol vehicle, though that was down considerably from the 56 percent of people who said the same thing when surveyed last year.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their next vehicle was likely to be an electric vehicle, just above the 24 percent who were thinking of getting a hybrid. 

Both of these figures were up from last year's survey, with 11 percent of people in 2018 stating they had their eye on an electric vehicle and 17 percent on a hybrid. 

Ten percent of potential buyers said they were most likely to get a diesel vehicle, down from 14 percent last year. 

The biggest roadblock for buyers putting their money where their mouth is, according to the survey, was the initial cost, with 69 percent of respondents listing the buying cost as the top reason not to get one. Fifty-four percent said they would hold off due to concerns about how far the car could travel on a single charge, while 46 percent said battery life was the biggest turn-off. 

"Cost, is of course a motivating factor to New Zealand consumers. While you can pick up a used EV onsite for around $13,000, they don’t fit into everyone’s budget," says Clark. "On the whole EVs are slightly more expensive to purchase and while people are considering EVs more and more, some just can’t justify the spend at this stage."

Despite the upswing in interest, there still remains relatively few EVs available in New Zealand. Although there were 95,000 vehicles for sale on Trade Me only 1,000 of those are electric, says Clark. 

The survey from Trade Me reflects figures from the Ministry of Transport, which show the country's EV fleet size numbered almost 15,000 in June this year, up from less than 9000 at the same time in 2018.

And with a new proposal announced by the government earlier this month to incentivise buyers to drive cleaner, low-emission vehicles, the number of EVs on the road could keep climbing.

The scheme is designed to make fuel-efficient vehicles cheaper by subsiding them with revenue earned from fees levied on high-emission cars. The scheme would take effect from 2021 and only apply to new vehicles and newly imported vehicles.