Lots of us have broad enthusiasm for buying an electric vehicle, but so far that is not translating into big sales.
• Pattrick Smellie: Why EV innovator is quitting NZ
• href="https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12310981" target="_blank">Audrey Young: Parties wrangle over who killed the 'feebate' car subsidy
• Kiwi startup Invisible Urban takes $35m in US orders for its EV charging-as-a-service
• Subsidised chargers for Pak'nSave, Warehouse as $4m more doled out to promote electric cars
One in five New Zealanders (or 831,800 people) consider themselves as extremely, or very likely, to buy a car in the next 12 months, according data collected by Nielsen Media Insights - a rolling survey of 10,000 adults - between the third quarter of 2018 and the third quarter of 2019.
And some 389,300 of these serious car buyers are open to purchasing a hybrid or electric car, Nielsen says.
They are more likely to be between 18-49 years old, male, living in metropolitan areas, and are heavy daily newspaper and/or magazine readers.
That's all well and green.
But new vehicle registration data collected by the Motor Industry Association and the Ministry of Transport shows that few are actually shelling out for an EV.
In 2016, when there was a grand total of 1902 EVs registered, the National-led government of the day set the goal of 64,000 EVs by 2021, which would represent about 2 per cent of New Zealand's light vehicle fleet.
Today, we're still under 20,000 (or less than 1 per cent) and we've yet to see any period with a big spike in uptake. Sure the gradient looks impressive in the graph below, but remember it's off a low base, and set against a background of a total 104,270 total new cars sold in 2019, and some 2.9m total cars registered as of the end of last year.
The latest new registration figures, for January 2020, show pure EVs accounting for 1 per cent of total car sales of 13,078. If you add plug-in hybrids, the number climbs to 1.7 per cent. It still feels fringe.
Specifically, were 140 pure EVs sold during the month, led by Tesla's "affordable" Model 3 (priced from $75,900) with 48 new registrations, Hyundai's Kona with 38 new registrations, and Nissan's Leaf on 10.
The situation is brighter if you include plug-in petrol hybrids, where there were 88 sales, with Mitsubishi's PHEV version of its Outlander leading the pack with 46 sales.
(There were also 647 sales of petrol hybrids, heavily dominated by Prius maker Toyota. Petrol hybrids do give their petrol-powered range a bit of a top-up from batteries that capture power from regenerative braking, but they fall outside the MoT's definition of an EV. Another footnote: there were zero sales of the only hydrogen fuel cell car on the local market, the Hyundai Nexo).
The current Government has continued the Low Emission Vehicles Fund established back in 2016 when Simon Bridges as Transport Minister. Through the EECA, it has been funding EVs for car-sharing services, and has helped bankroll some 1000 public chargers it's now dished out some $28 million.
And another perk persists: EV buyers are still exempt from the road user charges that diesel car owners have to pay.
But other 2016 measures have withered, including giving EV owners the right to drive in T2 and bus lanes. AT and NZTA did agree to a trial, but were generally lukewarm on the concept, which was dropped after a survey of EV owners found most did not want the privilege of driving in a special lane. My little brother Steve, a Nissan Leaf owner, was one of those involved in the voluntary surrender, saying he did not want to undermine public transport. But not everyone is so high-minded. From my point of view, being able to blat up a bus lane during rush-hour was just the sort of big-bang measure required to convince a light-green munter, such as myself, to get an electric car.
And while they have proved a popular mechanism to push EVs in many countries, subsidies to buy a low- or no-emission vehicle, or punitive charges for a dirty vehicle, are off the table here. The coalition's "feebate" scheme is effectively dead given NZ First and National's opposition.
For EV-boosters, that's a pity. A few thousand dollars chipped in by the Crown could tip you toward buying an electric car, which costs more up-front, but only the cost of a cup of coffee to "refuel" and has far fewer moving parts to break down.. A Government campaign pointing out those facts wouldn't go amiss.
While we wait for a brighter idea than "feebate" - or at least one that won't scare double-cab ute-owning NZ First voters as much - many of Nielsen's army of 389,300 potential EV buyers will stay on the sidelines.