The reasons why Kiwis aren't opting for electric vehicles

As the world is getting warmer, more and more people are opting for electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles are key to New Zealand's goal of transitioning to a clean, green, carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Despite increasing electric car sales and a record number of new registrations, they still only make up a fraction of new vehicle sales.

South Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai has seen an 80 percent surge in its electric vehicle sales over the past year. 

"Close to 10 percent of our total sales are now electric vehicles, so that's a huge change around," said Hyundai New Zealand general manager, Andy Sinclair.

There are currently 17,505 electric cars on New Zealand roads, around 13,000 of which are pure.

September saw 1008 new registrations, the largest number by far - boosted by the arrival of new vehicles such as the Tesla model 3.

However, that's nothing compared to four-million petrol and diesel cars, utes and vans.

New Zealand is still far from the previous Government's goal of 64,000 electric vehicles on our roads by the end of 2021.

This Government is in no rush, with just 130 lower-emissions vehicles in its own fleet.

Climate change was supposed to be this Government's big focus, but as the world rushes to find urgent solutions to climate change, it seems New Zealanders have to be patient when it comes to electric vehicles.

Sinclair said his biggest challenge is supply and demand.

"We've had some of our customers wait nine to 12 months. Luckily now we're just starting to get some supply coming towards the end of the year, which has helped us fulfil those orders," he explained.

Further patience is required if electric vehicle owners need to top up at a charge station.

"There's lines for it now, it got really popular probably in the last four months. On average it's about 15 minutes to 30... maybe 15 minutes, because I won't wait more than that, I'll go away and come at some other time," said one owner.

"I've got to rush now, so I'll have to get it done somewhere else."

This electric vehicle owner said there is "not enough fast chargers" in Auckland, particularly in the city's western suburbs. 

While an increasing number of Kiwis are making the switch, it seems many are struggling to give up fossil fuels - cost being a major barrier.

Electric vehicle running costs are super attractive.

"Our Kona EV, you can run for less than $400 a year," said Sinclair.

Yet the initial outlay is not so attractive - that Kona costs $74,000.

A new electric vehicle will cost around double that of an equivalent petrol or diesel car, making "E" for electric also "E" for expensive.

The AA says the cars are simply too much for most Kiwis to afford.

"Most of us don't buy new cars... people have a price point for when they buy a car... so people are spending $10,000 to $15,000," said AA spokesperson Mike Noon.

There are plenty of electric vehicles in that bracket, as long as potential customers are after a second-hand Nissan Leaf.

Noon said there is a strong argument for families with two cars to get just the one vehicle.

"If they made the choice and got a second-hand electric vehicle for the small car, it'll do most of the kilometres, save all those emissions from the big car, and then if they do need to go on holiday and tow the boat or take all the family away, they can use the big car," he explained.

Newer models can drive much further on a single charge, reducing range anxiety - yet there are still environmental concerns over what to do with used batteries.

One possible solution could be fuel cell electric vehicles, powered by hydrogen. Electricity to power these cars is created when the hydrogen mixes with air inside the fuel stack.

There are only two on the road in New Zealand.

As for emissions, driving actually cleans the air instead of polluting it, with "clean air and clean water out of the tailpipe.''

Although the Government is looking into future hydrogen use, its focus is on "heavy transport" - while a recent Z Energy report has also ruled it out for now.

So fuel cell electric vehicles won't be taking off in a hurry.

New Zealand's only current options are battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Yet with prices still too steep for most New Zealanders, it will be decades before Kiwis' daily commute changes from a petrol-powered car to an electric vehicle.