Electric Vehicles are suddenly front and centre in the minds of the New Zealand car-buying public. It’s a fact that most will be first-time purchasers of this technology, which is quite daunting – because it’s a big change.
So what do you really need to get your head around when it comes to owning an EV? Here are 10 things you might need to know.
Your new car needs a plug if you want a Clean Car Discount
We’ve covered this in a previous column, but it’s worth a refresher here. If you’ve been lured by the promise of the Clean Car Discount (up to $8625), your prospective purchase must have a plug. That’s what makes a car an “EV”, according to the Government.
EVs are no longer prohibitively expensive
The capital cost of EVs is still relatively high, but thousands of used-import cars over the past few years (mostly Nissan Leafs) mean a stock of affordable pre-loved plug-ins.
In the new-vehicle market, with a little help from the aforementioned Clean Car Discount, there are a number of EVs sitting happily in the $40-60k bracket, from brands like Mini, MG, Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Toyota. Not exactly budget, but still family car money.
If you’re in the market for a premium brand, EVs have achieved something close to price parity with petrol/diesel.
You probably do need somewhere to charge at home
Ideally, most EV charging is done at home so yes, you do really need the facility to do that – either off-street parking or a carport/garage. That also allows you to take advantage of prime charging time: when you’re asleep at night.
In fact, you probably do need a home quick-charge station
Yes, you can charge an EV at home using a domestic socket. But that’s very slow and it’s not the last word in safety. Most makers would recommend you have a wallbox-style AC quick charger installed at home, which will be up to six times faster than using a standard three-pin domestic plug and give you ultimate peace of mind. Such a setup can charge a MINI Electric to 100 per cent in less than five hours.
There’s an extra cost to that of course – several thousand dollars – but it’s worth it in terms of future-proofing (added value to your home as well) and it also means your domestic wiring will have had the once-over from experts to see if it’s up to the task of safely charging your EV.
Check your power plan
Cheaper off-peak rates are not a given in NZ, but many companies do offer that (some even allocate specific hours of free power) – so you’ll want to take advantage of all that for EV charging. Most cars/home charge stations also give you the option to choose charge times, which makes it easy.
Charge at home and an EV could be 80 per cent cheaper to run
Plug in at home, take advantage of cheap power when you can and an EV will cost up to 80 per cent less to run than an equivalent petrol car. We know, we’ve the done the sums. That’s another good reason to set yourself up at home with a proper AC charging station.
Buying PHEV? Electric range is limited, but there’s no range anxiety
Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) combine a small battery with a petrol or diesel engine. Pure-electric range can be quite limited: 30-60km is common, although some new models like the BMW X5 xDrive45e can do nearly 80km. For longer trips you can simply run the vehicle as a hybrid and forget about charging altogether, which is a huge upside for EV first-timers.
Buying BEV? You do need to change your mindset
There’s no point pretending Battery Electric Vehicle (pure-electric) ownership can be exactly the same as an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car. A BEV doesn’t go as far when full and it takes much longer to “refuel”.
With ICE vehicles, you “feast”: fill up, drive as far as you can before the tank is empty and fill up again. With a BEV, you have to learn to “graze”: charge little and often, and take every opportunity you can to plug in. Like you do with your phone.
The average daily commute is 21.4km
Many people have a vague sense of panic about the limited range of EVs. In fact, according to Government figures the average daily commute in NZ is 21.4km (so even a PHEV can do that on pure-electric power) and 95 per cent of all car journeys are less than 120km. EVs offer plenty of range for most people, most of the time.
There are fast-charging stations every 75km (almost)
One of the stated aims of the Clean Car Programme is to have EV fast-charging stations every 75km throughout NZ. We’re almost much there: Government data shows only six stretches of main road beyond that 75km reach of stations that are either commissioned or under construction: two in the North Island and four in the South.