Transport Minister Simon Bridges has asked his officials to look at ways in which Government can increase the uptake of electric cars.
The minister said New Zealand was "the most electric vehicle-ready country in the world" because of its significant renewable electricity sources, its motorists' relatively short travel distances, and the high proportion of off-street parking.
In a speech to energy executives yesterday, Mr Bridges said he had asked the Ministry of Transport to provide advice on whether the Government could play a role in facilitating the uptake of EVs.
He told the Herald the Government was not interested in regulation changes or further subsidies for EV users or manufacturers, but he wanted to investigate options to "nudge New Zealand in the direction of higher EV pickup".
At present, only three brands of electric or hybrid cars were sold in this country. Many big manufacturers did not bother to sell electric cars in New Zealand because it was too small a market.
Growth in electric car use grew by 14 per cent in New Zealand last year, but this was coming from a very low baseline of several hundred cars.
Mr Bridges said: "We are seeing things increase without Government intervention, but I do want to kick the tyres and see whether there are nudges that can accelerate EV use given the advantages we have for EVs over almost every country in the world."
New Zealand motorists drive an average of around 33km a day, much less than the usual range for an electric vehicle (EV), and 85 per cent of drivers park off the street, meaning they have ready access to a power source.
At present, the only Government policy designed to increase the use of plug-in cars was an exemption on road user charges.
Expanding the EV fleet was seen by the Government as an option for quickly reducing New Zealand's carbon footprint. Around 20 per cent of New Zealand's carbon emissions came from transport, and 60 per cent of all transport energy consumption came from light passenger vehicles.
Mr Bridges said a key step in expanding the use of EVs would be getting commercial fleets to switch to electric. Businesses bought between 60 and 70 per cent of new cars in New Zealand.
Energy companies Mighty River Power and Contact Energy have started changing their fleet to plug-in cars or hybrid plug-ins, and believe the increased cost of the leases would be cancelled out by fuel savings.
Mr Bridges said he still drove a diesel-powered Hyundai Sante Fe, but said "you can be reasonably confident there will be an EV or plug-in in my garage soon."