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Outlook positive for electric vehicle uptake in New Zealand – Otago research

Clocktower from the Leith

Wednesday 1 July 2015 11:16am

Rebecca Ford
Dr Rebecca Ford

New research out of the University of Otago indicates Kiwis are keen to make the shift to energy efficient electric vehicles (EVs) but some key barriers are holding them back.

Dr Rebecca Ford, of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability, says that although EV uptake has been relatively slow – there were only 660 EVs in New Zealand as of May 2015 – they have an important role to play in New Zealand’s transport future.

“EVs are far more cost-effective to run than cars that use diesel or petrol. The challenge is in overcoming the obstacles preventing many New Zealanders from making the switch,” says Dr Ford.

Analysing data from interviews as well as multiple surveys, Dr Ford and her co-authors found that the majority of Kiwis surveyed felt positively about driving an EV with most indicating they were willing or very willing to drive one in the future.

Additionally, 30% would ‘likely’ or ‘definitely’ buy an EV if the purchase price was the same as a petrol or diesel car, and another 40% would ‘consider’ purchase under this scenario.

The price of EVs was the most important factor for people considering buying an EV, followed by vehicle range and charge time. The age of the vehicle was least important, suggesting New Zealanders may be happy to buy second-hand EVs.

Dr Ford and her co-authors suggest several options which they say could help stimulate uptake:

  • Charging stations – set up charging stations at regular intervals, with fast charging technologies, so drivers can be certain they will be able to get where they want to go
  • Fleet purchases – government and commercial fleets purchase EVs, allowing them to come on the market as second-hand vehicles in a few years’ time
  • Educate consumers – improve consumers’ knowledge about EVs, their environmental benefits, and their whole-of-life costs compared to petrol or diesel cars
  • Demonstrations – increase familiarity with EVs with on-road demonstrations, giving consumers an opportunity to gain first-hand experience
  • Retrofit – convert conventional cars to EVs through retrofitting
  • Manage at-home charging – ensure effective arrangements for at-home charging to mainly occur in off-peak periods, to avoid negative impacts on the electricity grid

Dr Ford says overall, things look positive for electric vehicles in New Zealand.

“There appears to be a strong latent appetite for electric vehicles, and the biggest barriers to uptake – cost, range and charge time – will be resolved as EVs continue to get cheaper and more advanced,” she says.

“The threat is that we get left behind the rest of the world because we take up EVs too slowly. And that would be a pity, as we have plenty of renewable electricity to power them, and Kiwis are keen.”

The Keen on EVs: Kiwi perspectives on electric vehicles and opportunities to stimulate uptake report summarises the findings of four separate research projects undertaken as part of the University’s GREEN Grid and Energy Cultures research projects. Funding for the projects was provided by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

For more information, contact:

Dr Rebecca Ford
Deputy Director & Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Sustainability
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 9244
Email rebecca.ford@otago.ac.nz

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