Some basic questions that may help.

What is an electric vehicle (EV)?


An EV (electric vehicle) is any vehicle that can drive on electricity derived from a power plug and stored in a traction battery. The battery is typically designed as the chassis of the vehicle and can be structural. All EVs can self-charge to differing extents, by capturing the power produced by the forward momentum of the car and using that power to recharge the batteries. This is referred to as regenerative braking or simply "regen." All EVs have a small starter battery, similar to those in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

RULE OF THUMB: If you can't plug it in, it isn't an EV.

There are a few different ways to charge the traction batteries. You can learn about them here.

A BEV (battery electric vehicle) is a subset of EV where the vehicle only has an electric drivetrain. Usually these vehicles are 100% emission free while operating.

A subset of BEV which is not 100% emission free are those vehicles which can recharge the traction batteries optionally from a ICE generator, such as the BMW i3 REx. This generation must not drive the motor and must be turned on manually by the driver, or automatically only when the traction battery is fully discharged.

A PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicle) is another subset of EV, and has a hybrid powertrain which commonly includes both an electric drivetrain and a separate petrol drivetrain in a variety of different configurations. A PHEV must be capable of being entirely powered by electricity, while its petrol powertrain is disengaged. Its batteries must be primarily rechargeable from a plug-in source of electricity. PHEVs are not 100% emission free.


An HEV (Hybrid electrified vehicle) is not an electric vehicle, as it does not fit the above criteria. A hybrid vehicle has an electric powertrain in addition to the petrol or diesel powertrain. They usually have very small traction batteries which can only be recharged via a fossil fuelled engine and to a small extent regeneration. Usually the driver has little to no control over when the vehicle will operate its electric drivetrain or its petrol drivetrain. While these vehicles have better fuel economy than an ICE vehicle, they potentially are worse for the environment on emissions than a PHEV, and are more complicated and expensive to maintain than a BEV.

An ICE (internal combustion engine vehicle) is not an electric vehicle. An ICE vehicle has a lead acid starter battery, but no traction batteries. It does not have an electric motor, but instead has an engine which is powered by the use of fossil fuels, such as diesel or petrol, and requires oil lubricants. Internal combustion engines are particularly inefficient as 75% of the fossil fuel put into them is lost to heat, idling, starting, etc. ICE are also NZ's second largest source of greenhouse gases, and NZ has one of the highest per person GHG emissions in the world. Road emissions also pollute our waterways and are a direct cause of a wide variety of health issues, including deaths.


Some vehicles that are not EVs are being marketed as "Self-Charging." It is important for consumers to realise that this term is a sales' gimmick. As mentioned above, all traction batteries are designed to self-charge during regenerative braking. So-called self-charging only accounts for a small percentage of the overall battery recharge - the rest must come from an outside source such as fossil fuels, or in the case of EVs by being plugged into an electricity supply such as the national grid.  


Can I hire an EV?


Currently, in New Zealand, there is car-sharing, car rentals and taxis, all offering EVs.

The following links may help you:

Yoogo Share 


Green Cabs

Easy Transport Waiheke


Car SharingBecause owning a car is no longer the future. Millions of people around the world are already very successfully car sharing. Remove the pains & costs of owning your own. Yoogo Share is a membership-based service and is free to join. They have bases in Christchurch and now Auckland. Vehicles available are BMW i3 and Hyundai ioniq.

EV Rentals: If you need a longer rental, try Europcars, available at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Airports. Vehicle type available is Volkswagen eGolf.

EV Taxis: Green Cabs currently operate in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, and Wellington. (Nissan LEAFs)

Also on Waiheke Island, an all-electric service is available at Easy Transport. Offering Nissan LEAF and eNV200 van.

What is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV)?


A PHEV is a car that operates on both electricity (from plugging in) and petrol, and therefore has an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. Usually a PHEV runs on electricity first and then draws on petrol once the battery is depleted. That way, you are mainly driving on electricity on short hops around town and only using petrol for those longer weekend trips. If a family has only one car then a PHEV is a good option; however still having an ICE engine means that it will require servicing regularly, which can be an expensive undertaking. Check out the Mitsubishi Outlander which has a great luggage capacity for families or the Toyota Priius Prime for a compact PHEV or the Audi e-tron, which may appeal to Audi drivers!

Is the Prius an electric car?


It depends which model of Prius you're talking about. The original Prius was a first generation hybrid, meaning it drives on both electricity and petrol. However the electric motor in a Prius makes the petrol engine operate at a much more efficient level, and anecdotally give an efficiency of 4.5 litres petrol per 100 km driven. But, and this is the big but, a original Prius cannot drive without petrol and it has no plug to charge the electric battery. Driving the original Prius charges the electric battery, and there is some regen whilst braking and travelling downhill, which is fed into the electric battery.

However, Toyota do now make a plug-in Prius, the Prius Prime, which makes it a PHEV, but sadly in NZ you see very few on the roads. Toyota has only recently (mid 2017) started selling used / refurbished Prius Prime cars in NZ. These are EVs as they can be driven up to 40km (at last revision) on battery alone, provided you don't go over 105kph, at which point the petrol motor kicks in.  

What you can say about a original Prius is that it was a handy stepping stone towards full BEV cars, and it seems mad that Toyota threw away the head start they owned in the early 2000's.


Are plug-in vehicles dependable?


Yes!  Plug-in cars are the most dependable vehicles on the market. They will last as long or longer than a comparable petrol vehicle, with much less regular maintenance required.

Since there are significantly fewer moving parts in an electric motor compared to a traditional ICE engine (in fact the electric motor has about 10% of the components of an ICE),  less ongoing preventative maintenance is needed.

An electric motor requires no oil changes, tune-ups, or new spark plugs. An electric motor will also outlast the body of the vehicle.

Brake life is extended on EVs since the motor is used to slow the car down once you take your foot off the accelerator, thus recapturing the kinetic energy and storing it back in the battery - this is called regeneration.

All automakers also offer good warranties on the life of the batteries. For example, the Nissan LEAF has been so reliable thousands of people are happy to import them used from Japan and UK without much in the way of warranty cover. In the Consumer NZ's 2017 survey of car owners, the Nissan LEAF rated highest in terms of reliability and owner satisfaction.....and most of those cars wouldn't be covered by any local warranty.  

Can electric cars drive far enough to be practical?


Range can be a very emotive topic, and is frequently used by non-EVdrivers as being an insurmountable problem that prevents them considering buying an EV.

The first Nissan Leafs have a range of 90-130 kilometers, depending on age, and all manufacturers are pushing to get affordable cars with a range between 250 and 300 kilometers.  Again the cost of the EV bears a direct relationship with the range of the battery.  A Tesla Model S with a 90 kWh battery has a range of around 400 km.

In NZ very few drivers travel this far on a daily basis; in fact the average daily drive is about 30km, and only a very small percentage drive over 100 km/day. So as a second car in a family, an EV run-around makes so much sense! Anecdotally when a family gets an EV as a second car, it quickly becomes the main town car, and the 'bigger, petrol' car becomes the out-of-town holiday driving car!

For the infrequent occasions when a long-distance drive is needed, and time is so critical that stopping to charge en route is not considered, then that long distance drive can be done with a second car that is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), by access to vehicles in car-share services, or by renting or borrowing another vehicle.

In NZ the charging network is now well established - see the Smartphone App PLUGSHARE - and any journey can be planned to include charging when natural breaks for food or toilets are required.

Aren't plug-in cars expensive?


On first glance the initial cost of buying either a full BEV or a PHEV can look very expensive indeed. It is still a new variant of transport, and all manufacturers have invested heavily into producing such vehicles. Sales volumes are therefore still small, but increasing year on year.

In NZ where we are very used to buying second-hand Japanese cars, the cheapest EV available on the market is a second hand Nissan Leaf and prices can be as low as $12,000. At the other end of the scale a brand new Tesla Model S starts at around $120,000. So the price graph is wide, and therefore hopefully anyone can find a price that is justifiable for their circumstances.

When buying a petrol car, few people consider the on-going costs of fuel and maintenance.

In fact the more kilometers you drive, the more money you save when driving an EV. As a rule of thumb charging at home on overnight rates gives you 'electric fuel' at roughly a sixth the cost of fossil fuel petrol.

Hence, over the life of an EV, the total cost of ownership can work out better than buying an ICE car - and you have contributed no CO2 to the environment! This is a win-win situation! 


Can electric vehicles self-charge?


No. Energy conversions are never 100 percent efficient, so every time we convert one form of energy to another, we lose some of that energy. Hybrids and EVs recapture some of their energy back into the batteries through regenerative braking.

How long does it take to charge a plug-in car?


How long does it take to charge your cell phone? Think about charging your car just like you think about charging your cell phone. Most people charge their cars at home or work, just like a cell phone. Plug it in when you arrive and it will be ready for you in the morning, or the end of the work day.

The actual charging time depends on the size of your battery, how far you have driven, and the amperage of the charging system. Keep in mind that most of the time, the battery will not be empty when you plug in, just like your cell phone.

Where do you recharge a plug-in vehicle?


One of the best things about an electric car is the ability to charge cheaply at home overnight, and therefore remove the need to go out of the way to visit a petrol station.  All EVs can charge by plugging into an ordinary 3-pin, 10amp plug, and EVs should be sold with a charging cable which can do this.

While most people recharge overnight in their garage, carport, driveway or at work, there will be times when you need to visit a public charging station. Find a public EV charging station here

There are two types of light vehicle public charging station, which require two different fittings on your vehicle. One is AC (alternating current), and the other is DC (direct current).

DC Charging is a faster way to fill your battery, but the associated costs involved in installing DC charging stations means that this service is usually not free. Still it is a lot cheaper than petrol. These DC stations ought only to be used if you cannot charge at home so that you do not block them from travellers who depend on them. There are currently over 150 of these stations around New Zealand, and some do require you to have opened an account with the service provider before you can use them. You can not use your own cable at these stations (exception is the Tesla adaptor). Charging time is roughly around 25 minutes per 100km depending on circumstances.

There are hundreds of AC chargers around the country and these are usually free to use, but may have parking limits. Most require you to bring your own cable, and this will be a different cable to the one you use in a 3-pin plug. Charging is a lot faster than can be accomplished on a 3-pin plug too, but generally requires at least an hour to get a worthwhile charge. For that reason, they are usually installed in places where you are likely to be parked for a while, such as motels, malls, parking buildings, supermarkets. Wellington City Council is trialing street pole chargers.

If importing a vehicle yourself, be sure that it complies with our national public charging standards, which are as follows:

DC - CHAdeMO or CCS-2
AC - Type 2 (Mennekes)

Some EVs have both AC and DC charging options. Others only have AC.

How much does it cost to charge a plug-in vehicle?


Much less than it costs to buy petrol. Exactly how much depends on the vehicle and electricity rates. On average, it costs less than $5 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $5-$10 for an all-electric car. Your overall energy bill will be lowered by driving with electricity.

Is plugging in a hassle?


Not at all – it takes less than five seconds, and there’s no going out of your way to a gas station,  jockeying for a pump, and getting toxic petrol on your hands. You can charge anywhere there is an electric outlet. Most EV drivers plug in when they get home.

What about hydrogen cars?


Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) use four times as much electricity on a per-mile basis as a battery EV if the hydrogen is obtained through the process called electrolysis. So, you would need four times the number of solar panels to go the same distance as you would in a battery EV. FCVs are also 40 percent less efficient than battery EVs if the hydrogen is obtained from converting natural gas, and this process releases significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. FCVs have many difficult and expensive engineering challenges to solve before they will ever be widely available, and even then, the energy required per mile will probably still be substantially higher than for EVs. The electrical grid already exists for plug-in vehicles, only a handful of hydrogen refueling stations currently exist. The bottom line is that there is no advantage to using FCVs over EVs. And hydrogen is not currently available in New Zealand for vehicle owners to purchase.

Is the quiet nature of electric vehicles a hazard?


Electric vehicles aren’t completely silent, although the lack of engine noise takes a little getting used to!

When driving slowly in carparks an EV makes some noise, primarily from the tyres, but it is true that as an EV driver, paying attention to pedestrians is of high importance.  Reversing in an EV, like most ICE cars, has a warning beep to alert pedestrians, and most EVs have warning noises for any obstacle in their forward path, both solid and human. 

At very high speeds, the wind and tyre noise is comparable to any car.

Do plug-in vehicles emit electromagnetic radiation?


Data suggest there are no harmful electromagnetic emissions from plug-in cars. There is no broad agreement in the United States over what level of exposure to electromagnetic fields may constitute a health hazard, and there are no federal standards for allowable exposure levels. Two reports from the United States show that electric cars and buses have lower electromagnetic fields than conventional gasoline cars.

Does it make sense to put solar panels or wind turbines on an EV?


Putting solar photovoltaics (PV) directly on EVs would be nice but likely not adequate. Most solar panels would add too much weight. Some newer, lighter and flexible PV technology could generate power for interior climate control or minor tasks, but not enough to power a car a significant distance. Furthermore, cars are often parked in garages or under carports, where sunlight won’t reach.

Likewise, windmills on EVs don’t make sense. The drag they create reduces efficiency, necessitating more energy to run the car. However, EVs can be charged with electricity that is generated from solar panels and wind turbines.

What about putting stationary solar panels on your house or business? That is a great idea. Fixed panels can be set up so that they’re not obstructed, and angled optimally to the sun. And fixed wind turbines can work wonderfully as well.

Where do batteries end up? In landfills? Or recycled?


Vehicle batteries have an excellent recycling record that will get even better with plug-in vehicles. Every car in the world has a lead-acid battery. Even with its low value as scrap, the national recycling rate for lead-acid batteries is about 98 percent. Plug-in vehicles mostly use lithium ion, which is much more valuable than lead. Their inherent value will ensure that they are recycled. Some car makers are exploring “second-life” applications for used EV batteries as well including adding them to a house hold solar system.
Now that EV's have been around for while manufacturers are learning the batteries last longer than they expected.

How often do you have to replace the batteries?


Not for many years. GM, Tesla and Nissan offer warranties covering eight years or 100,000 miles of driving on the lithium-ion batteries in their vehicles. In the States Plug In America is conducting surveys of battery life among EV drivers, and all battery manufacturers are working hard to get more 'bang for your buck' in terms of battery cells - as range is seen as the foremost problem with driving an EV. Different chemistry solutions for batteries are also being explored as an alternative to lithium -ion, and several ideas for the catalytic elements are being investigated. You can learn about survey results or participate here.

Can I charge a plug-in car with solar or wind power?


The cleaner the power, the cleaner the car. Using solar photovoltaics (PV) at your home or business makes even more sense with a plug-in car. The investment in solar panels pays off faster when the solar power is not only replacing grid electricity but also replacing much more expensive gasoline. EVs typically can’travel 4-8 km (or more) per kWh of electricity. If you drive 19,000 km per year, you will need 3,000-4,000 kWh. Depending on where you live, you will need a 1.5kW-3kW PV system to generate that much power using about 14-28 square meters of space on your roof.

Will plug-in cars lead to more coal or gas power plants?



The existing electric grid’s off-peak capacity for power generation is sufficient to power 73 percent of commutes to and from work by cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans without building a single new power plant. In NZ we are very fortunate to have 80% of our power needs delivered via renewable generation - wind, solar and hydro - with little coming from the older coal fired stations. This percentage can only increase as the impact of CO2 emissions make us think in a cleverer way to mitigate the problems CO2 cause the planet.

There is a big push to develop systems that allow existing nighttime electricity be stored in EV batteries and retrieved during peak-demand hours.  Such vehicle-to-grid technology will revolutionise the provision of power, helping to meet society’s daytime power needs.

New Zealand has consents for enough renewable energy sources to power every vehicle in NZ if they converted to electricity at a stroke. In fact household electricity use has flattened in the past decade as we all switch to LED lighting and more efficient whiteware.

What about pollution?


Battery electric vehicles do not have an exhaust system and tail pipe because they produce no emissions into the atmosphere. As a comparison an internal combustion engine (ICE) SUV would emit approximately 4.5 tons of CO2 per year, if it drove 10,000 kilometres.

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