There's some political chicanery when Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai talks about her new ratepayer-funded electric vehicle.

Refining NZ is on her electoral doorstep - New Zealand's primary source of fossil fuels.

"They are going with solar panels," she says quickly, pointing to the refinery's huge new energy project unfolding over the next year. "The future is sustainable energy."

The purchase of the Kia Niro makes Mai's council car one of around 500 electric vehicles registered in the North.

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Mai was re-elected as mayor in the recent local body elections and had a spending limit of $65,000 for a new mayoral car. She said the cost of the vehicle came in under the spending limit.

She said the car was great to drive and had a range of 450km. "This thing is so peppy it's not funny."

The purchase switches Mai from a hybrid vehicle driver to full electric, in line with council's vehicle policy. "It's getting more and more mainstream."

Mai said she was keen to improve infrastructure supporting electric vehicle use in the district.

"Northland is leading the charge," she said, then apologised for the pun.