Electric cars: The pros and cons

Ryan Boyd
Electric cars: The pros and cons

Electric cars have been available in New Zealand for a few years now, but don’t seem to have caught on quite as fast as in other countries.

According to Drive Electric, we only have 1,015 EVs registered in New Zealand today. In contrast, similar sized Norway already has 70,000, and make up 20% of new car purchases.

With new initiatives aimed at encouraging Kiwis into the driver’s seat, it’s only a matter of time before EVs become more common on our roads, especially when you look at the considerable advantages these feats of engineering offer.


Environmental impact

The major selling point of electric cars is that they are greener, but how much greener are they compared to our traditional petrol cars?

The only area where combustion engines even come close to being greener than electric vehicles is in their manufacturing, as an average combustion car emits around 2,000kgs of greenhouse gases less than an average EV (6,000 vs 8,000).

However, with around 80% fewer CO2 emissions than combustion cars, once on the road an EV will save about 30,000-50,000kgs of greenhouse gases over a 10 year period.

In other countries this figure is about 60%, but thanks to New Zealand sourcing much of our electricity is from renewable energy sources, such as hydro and wind, driving an EV here is even greener than normal.

SEE ALSO: solarcity: NZ’s first affordable solar battery service provider


Running costs

According to ecotricity.co.nz, the average New Zealand car travels 39km a day, which is 14,235km a year. If your car gets 10L per 100km, that’s $2,847 a year on fuel.

In contrast, an EV can cost $524 to run a year, and that’s including maintenance.

Try the calculator.

ecotricity.co.nz fuel cost calculator


Did you know?

-          If 50% of the New Zealand vehicle fleet were to convert to EVs or PHEVs:

-          We could import $2 billion less of oil per year

-          We would save $370m in health costs per year

-          We could reduce emissions by a whopping 6 billion kgs of CO2 per year

-          There would be much less road noise!

-          EVs have regenerative brakes so when braking or travelling downhill, energy is captured back into the battery. This also means that the brakes pads on an EV may never need replacing.

-          An electric motor only has a handful of moving parts and lasts much longer than combustion engines therefore much has substantially lower maintenance costs.



So sure, EVs are cheaper to run, but are they not super expensive to buy?

There is a perception that EV’s are typically pretty pricey, and in the case of the most famous EV maker, Tesla, that can be true. However, the prices of other models aimed at families have come down a long way, especially as battery production costs have reduced.

A newly imported second generation 2013 Nissan Leaf (possibly the most popular family EV), for example, costs around $30,000, while a first gen model from 2011 can be got for under $20k.

When you take into account the running costs that will be saved (approx. $10k over 5 years), it becomes an appealing option, especially if you were planning on spending $20k anyway.

Businesses committing to electric vehicles

Air New Zealand

In September 2015, Air New Zealand launched the Sustainability Framework, which includes a transition of its fleet of road vehicles and ground equipment to 100 percent EVs where feasible. 

NZ Post

In Feb 2016 a total of $15m was set aside for the purchase of the vehicles over two years from Norwegian manufacturers Paxster AS with the first shipment of 50 Paxsters due to arrive in mid-2016.


Have installed free public chargers across Auckland, and are also partnering with malls, supermarkets and cinemas to provide EV charging for their customers.

Z Energy

Have launched 6 rapid EV charging stations for the public at sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It costs about $5-$10 to fill up, and the charge time from empty will be approximately 10-25 minutes and allow customers to travel around 120 kilometres.

Westpac NZ

Committed to trialling two EVs in pool fleet, in order to better understand the current challenges in the life cycle of EV ownership.



Without a doubt the most obvious drawback with electric vehicles is the range. The 2013 Nissan Leaf claims it can get 135km from a full charge, which may be more than enough to drive around the city and suburbs, but certainly not ideal for a road trip.

As the technology improves, so will the range. In the meantime, EVs are best suited to shorter daily commutes, and then recharging overnight.

If you do find yourself low on power, thankfully public charging stations are becoming a more common sight. According to driveelectric.org.nz there are 142 of them in NZ, which you can find thanks to their map:

Map public NZ EV chargers

Pros and cons

Pros: Greener, cheaper to run, quiet, smooth, never visit petrol station again, and pretty good performers.

Cons: Limited range, limited number of public charging points, more expensive to buy than petrol cars (though prices are coming down), and limited consumer choice.

SEE ALSO: solarcity: NZ’s first affordable solar battery service provider

Westpac's Energy Efficient Lease product

Westpac has developed an energy efficient lease product allowing businesses to access green products and services such as electric vehicles without any upfront cost.

Westpac's wider commitment to environmental solutions:

-          Westpac supports New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon economy and one part of this is our commitment to investing in the clean technology and environmental services sector (CleanTech).

-           ‘CleanTech’ sector includes technologies that cut emissions, improve the environment or mitigate damaging impacts, and reduce the consumption of natural resources. 

-          This sector includes renewable energy, green buildings, electric vehicles, water, waste and forestry services, as well as innovative, emerging green businesses.

-          Westpac has committed more than $1.1billion in lending to the New Zealand CleanTech sector since 2012 and is targeting growth of $100m in gross new lending by 2017. 

-          By developing innovative and collaborative financial solutions for this sector, Westpac can play an important part in accelerating New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon economy.

-          Find out more.


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