New Zealand’s EV Targets

According to the Ministry for the Environment, “two-thirds of transport emissions come from the light vehicle fleet.”

The light vehicle fleet includes all passenger cars and utes and vans under 3,500 kg.

One of the ways to reduce emissions is by the uptake of battery electric vehicles, and successive New Zealand governments have set targets for EV uptake.

NZ’s adoption of EVs has been unpredictable and slower than anticipated. However, introducing the clean car scheme in 2021 changed the market.

Failed Target: 64,000 EVs by 2021 👎🏽

The National government set the first primary target for EV uptake in May 2016.

Several initiatives were undertaken to have 64,000 EVs on the road by the end of 2021.

In reality, just over 36,000 EVs were on the road.

Despite the plan to address Fringe Benefit Tax rules, no changes were made – missing out on early EV uptake by corporate fleets. However, NZ passed the 64k mark in December 2022 due to the Clean Car Discount implemented (ironically) by the Labour government.

As of the end of 2022, the scheme had paid out $203.3m and received over $105.1m in fees (NZ Herald)

Climate commission target: 50% market share by 2030

Transport plays a major role as part of New Zealand’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

According to the Clean Car scheme:

“By later this decade [2030], more than 50% of monthly vehicle sales in New Zealand need to be electric. This target requires a jump from about 6000 electric vehicles (bought in 2020) to annual sales of 150,000 electric vehicles.”

This is ambiguous but presumably includes registrations of both NZ new and used import vehicles.

The Climate Commission report (Apr 2023) goes a lot further:

“From 2025 to 2030, our demonstration path sees annual light EV registrations climb from 11.5% to 67% of the market and reach 100% percent by 2035. This means 100% of cars entering the Aotearoa New Zealand fleet, whether new or new second-hand imports, are electric in 2035.” (source)

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) made a submission to the Climate Change Commission in 2021:

“50% of light vehicle imports will be electric by 2027, with 40% of the fleet electric by 2035.”

Note that all vehicles in NZ are ‘imports’ – they are either brand new or used.

The new car market may reach this target; however, the used import market relies on Japan. The Japanese Domestic Market has very little battery EV supply.

Emissions Reduction Plan: 30% zero-emission vehicles by 2035

The Emissions Reduction Plan (released May 2022) is a comprehensive plan from the Ministry for the Environment.

With regards to transport:

Target 2 – Increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30 per cent of the light fleet by 2035.

This is completely unrealistic.

Zero emission is either a battery EV or a hydrogen fuel cell EV.

If the light vehicle fleet stayed the same size (~4.4 m vehicles):

  • 1.46 m zero-emission vehicles must be added in 12 years (121,000 per year).
  • 1.46 m combustion vehicles would need to leave the fleet.

Clean Car Discount

Enacted in 2021 by the Labour government, the Clean Car Discount introduced a series of rebates and fees on newly registered light vehicles in New Zealand. The rebate could only be claimed on the vehicle’s first registration in NZ.

Stage 1

1st July 2021 – Rebates for battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs.

1/7/21 – 31/3/22New vehicles (under $80k)Used import

Stage 2

1st April 2022 – The scheme was extended; rebates were available on hybrids and low-emission petrol vehicles (less than 146g/km CO2. The rebate amount was dependent on the emissions level. Fees were introduced for high-emitting vehicles (more than 192g/km CO2).

Stage 3

1st July 2023 – The scheme was adjusted; the criteria for low-emitting vehicles was tightened. The fee-paying threshold was lowered to 150g/km CO2. Rebates were only available where emissions were under 100g/km CO2.

1/7/23New vehicles (under $80k)Used import

End of Clean Car Discount

31st December 2023 – The newly elected National-led government ended the scheme.

  • Drive Electric published a paper by Concept Consulting, showing that if the CCD were removed there would be 350,000 fewer EVs on the road by 2030.

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