1 Feb 2024

The electric revolution, with or without discounts

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 1 February 2024

There's no turning back when it comes to electric vehicles, even without the clean car discount that lured buyers, and new road user costs

An electric car of the company Tesla is charged at a charging station on a parking lot in Cologne, Germany.

An electric car of the company Tesla is charged at a charging station on a parking lot in Cologne, Germany, in June 2023. Photo: Horst Galuschka / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP

Being able to start your car from miles away with an app on your phone, voice commands and of course cutting that carbon.

Electric vehicles may be the way to a more climate friendly future, but there is still some pushback against them.

Today, The Detail speaks to a motoring journalist and an EV car company manager about the positives and the pitfalls.

Richard Edwards, the managing editor of Auto Media Group, says EVs are one of his passions.

"I do love them for the technology and what they offer," he says. 

"You've got some relatively simple mass market cars now doing things that only super cars could do 10 years ago."

Warren Willmot is the New Zealand manager for Chinese brand BYD - a new name on the motoring scene but already the world's largest electric car manufacturer.

He says his business is "all about safeguarding the future" and "reducing those carbon emissions."

New Zealand's had a pretty high uptake of electric vehicles recently. From 2021-22, New Zealand had the third highest increase of electric vehicle sales in the world, after India and Brazil.

Part of this was due to the Labour government's clean car discount, which gave electric vehicle buyers a rebate, while high-emitting CO2 vehicles had to pay a tax. 

This ended in December, under the new government. 

Now there is a plan is to install 10,000 electric vehicle chargers by 2030.

"I think that is an admirable plan... so really the devil on that one is going to be in the detail," Edwards says.

"To be honest, I don't have that many issues charging at the moment. I very rarely have to queue for a charger.... there have been some holes particularly in the South Island but a lot of those have been tidied up over the last year or two - and the private market is continuing to do that at pace."

Willmot explains the clean car standard in the podcast, which aims to encourage more imports of low emissions vehicles.

It charges importers for vehicles with high CO2 emissions and gives credits for low emissions.

This tax could be passed on to the consumer though, so could bring a "ute-tax" of a different sort to the market, ironic given National's campaign against such a measure when it was in opposition. 

"I think the industry has a combined view that the clean car standard is a good thing, because it forces manufactures or importers to bring in as lower emitting vehicles," Willmot says.

"As far as the rebate and clean car discount - for our business it was fabulous - our customers were getting a lot of money off the government to make those decisions but even without the rebate, the cost-benefit of owning an EV outweighs buying a petrol or ICE [internal combustion engine] car."

When it comes to the criticisms of EVs, Edward's certainly well aware of them - 'range anxiety' being one of the big ones.

"I appreciate some people in some cases might not find them as useful - people who have to do a lot of miles every day of the week," he says.

"An EV - I will be quite blunt - is not necessarily the right vehicle for everyone at the moment. But if you do do some miles, you don't have to spend $80,000 on an EV .... there's plenty of good options in the used market, if you can afford it."

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