A new study has revealed a jump in the number of New Zealanders who want to make their next car an electric vehicle (EV) and advisory firm EY says the market has reached a global tipping point.
EY’s survey of 500 New Zealanders — part of a wider global study of 13,000 consumers in 18 countries — found 49% of NZ car buyers intend to purchase a fully electric, plugin hybrid or hybrid car.
That’s a 19point jump on the same survey last year, says Ashley Kearton — the head of EY NZ’s power and utilities practice. It points to New Zealand as ninth of 18 countries surveyed.
Car buyers in Italy (73%), China (69%) and South Korea (63%) were the most committed to buying an EV, while consumers in Australia (38%) and the US (29%) were the least.
The global average was 52% — the first time a majority of car buyers said they wanted to go electric.
Mr Kearton said environmental concerns loomed large last year, and continued to be a major factor, but the spike in EV buying intentions this year had been fuelled by the surging price of petrol combined with the new Clean Car Discount programme — which offers rebates of up to $7500 for lowemission vehicle buyers and, since April 1, has penalised buyers of higheremission vehicles up to $5175.
In a 2020 report, national grid operator Transpower predicted the tipping point for EVs would come at some point between 2025 and 2030 as electric vehicles reached price parity with petrol cars.
But EY’s survey found 90% of New Zealanders who wanted to buy an EV were prepared to pay a premium — and slightly more than a third were willing to pay up to 20% more. Regardless, not all of those intentions will translate into sales.
If you order a Tesla Model 3 today, the estimated delivery time is May 2023.
‘‘That’s consistent with what we’re seeing across other manufacturers,’’ Mr Kearton said.
If people wanted their new vehicle to arrive within a year, some would have no choice but to pick a petrol car.
Tesla’s Model 3 was far and away NZ’s bestselling electric car in the year to March — a period during which the amount Kiwis spent on imported electric and hybrid vehicles more than doubled to $877 million, in a passenger vehicle market worth a total $6.1 billion, Stats NZ figures showed.
In the near future, Covid supply chain disruption and component shortages — particularly lithium for batteries — will continue to crimp market growth, and some issues will be longterm.
Tesla chairwoman Robyn Denholm used her Apec keynote address to call on governments to coinvest in new lithium and nickel mines to help address a supply crunch.
One factor should help us out here: New Zealanders’ willingness to buy secondhand.
EY’s survey also showed New Zealanders are more likely to purchase a used electric vehicle than a new one — the only AsiaPacific country where this was the case.
‘‘Even more so than in many other countries, creating a pool of affordable, secondhand EVs will be key to making EVs accessible for all consumers and accelerating uptake in New Zealand,’’ Mr Kearton said.
One issue with buying secondhand is that the lithiumion batteries in an EV degrade — just like the lithiumion batteries in your phone or laptop that no longer last as long as when you bought them.
For example Tesla says with its Model 3, its battery warranty covers ‘‘eight years or 240,000km, whichever comes first, with minimum 70% retention of battery capacity over the warranty period’’.
And a few years ago, social media was rife with war stories over the firstgeneration Nissan Leaf and its overheating battery — a major issue given batteries account for roughly a third of the cost of an EV (the Leaf would later improve to the point where it topped a Consumer NZ survey on EV reliability).
Experts say EV battery management systems are improving all the time, and a cottage industry has emerged for budget battery replacements.
Mr Kearton said ‘‘range anxiety’’ was also becoming less of an issue.
The survey found those who already owned EVs were less worried about how far an electric car could travel on one charge, and less worried about charging infrastructure.
Only 21% of New Zealand EV drivers charged their car at home every day, the survey found.
Longterm, a transition to EVs is a certainty, given every major car maker says it will abandon petrol car production from 2030, if not earlier.
But in the medium term, there are stumbling blocks.
EVs are likely to lose their Road User Charges exemption from March 2024 as the Government looks to plug the multibillion hole that will emerge in its petrol tax revenue, and Crownowned Transpower and other players on the power market grapple with an anticipated 20% surge in electricity demand as EVs go mainstream. —