Regular readers of Boost Auto articles know the author has a disdain for EVs with very large batteries. These heavy and expensive vehicles might come with a huge range and lots of tech, however they don’t help New Zealand transition to electric vehicles fast enough. They are just too expensive for that. Consider that almost everything with a 70 kWh battery is north of $70K.
Recently MG announced the price of their smaller battery MG4, which at $39,990 after subsidy is a step in the right direction and is the cheapest and arguably also the best performing BEV available for the money.
Given that the cheapest volume sellers on the new car market are Suzuki Swift and MG3 there’s still a sizable gap between what people pay for ICE vehicles and BEV. At the time of writing – four days before the changes in the Clean Car rebate come into effect, a Swift GL auto could be bought for $22,654 ($24,990) and an MG3 Auto Core for $19,990 ($21,082). The prices in brackets are the post-CCR change price, assuming MG is publishing 3pWLTP figures on their website.
One could argue that it’s not a fair comparison, but let’s not muddy the waters on semantics. The cheapest ICE is still half the price of the cheapest BEV.
In 2022 Boost Auto thought we would see two more affordable BEVs enter the market. But we were wrong. The anticipated BYD Dolphin has only just arrived, and in Australia, it was touted as, ‘well under $35,000”. Across the ditch it can be pre-ordered for $39,000, and here for $49,990, with a 45 kWh battery. This is likely a great car, it is just not quite the transformative pricing that was touted.
The other car that was earmarked to be a game changer was Ora Good Cat. Rumoured to be available at high $3’s or low fours, it landed at the same price as Dolphin, $49,990, so both cars after the revised rebate will be $43,000. Since originally writing this blog, Ora has dropped the price to $42,990.
We are seeing more entry-level choices – undoubtedly a good thing - but we aren’t seeing huge downward pressure on pricing. Given that most journeys are short, and single occupancy, we clearly don’t have large battery cars as our only choice, however, the price gap from what people buy today to what they could buy if moving to electric is still just too large. This
problem is not unique to New Zealand, in the US a Chevrolet Bolt, the cheapest BEV is $26,600 USD (about $43,000). In Europe, the cheapest electric car is the Dacia Spring, at 20,800 Euro before incentives ($37,000).
However, that’s just for normal cars. In China, the best-selling BEV is a Mini Car.
Which neatly brings us to the New Zealand Post. The Paxster is the small delivery vehicle that they use, which is a commercial vehicle and a quadricycle.
Quadricycles in Europe come in two classes, light and heavy. The Paxster is a heavy quadricycle, with an unladen mass of 550kg or less, and an engine that doesn’t exceed 15 kW. Quadricycles can’t be registered or driven (or ridden; they are a class somewhere between a car and motorcycle) in New Zealand, yet somehow they are legal for New Zealand Post.
While you might not choose to ride a Paxster to the office, this class of vehicles opens a world of affordable vehicles suitable as a second vehicle for many Kiwi families. While there is specific legislation for quadricycles overseas, there is also similar legislation for other classes of small vehicles in other markets. In Europe, there are specialist quadricycle manufacturers like Ligier and Axiam, as well as Citroen and Fiat getting in on the act.
In Japan, they have kei cars. Mitsubishi NZ has touted its eK X electric car as a potential solution to affordability. However, Kei cars aren’t cheap and cheerful, they are fully formed small vehicles. Kei cars are the only format of mini cars that can already be registered and driven in New Zealand.
China has mini cars. The Wuling HongGuang Mini EV is consistently the top-selling BEV in China (although its lead is falling, brought on by a raft of newer competition like the Chery QQ Ice Cream), and in 2022 sold over 400,000. One of the reasons for the HongGuang Mini EV’s success is its price – about $7,000 NZD.
The US has a category of vehicle called NEV, a Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle, with similar restrictions, typically for use in parks and tightly defined geographic areas.
New Zealand has a pragmatic approach to homologation standards for new cars, as we accept vehicles that meet one of four regulatory frameworks, depending on what market the vehicles were intended for. It wouldn’t be a huge leap to open our minds to create comparable legislation for all these mini cars.
53% of trips are less than 7kms long (17% are less than 2kms long) and 70% are single occupancy.
If we are serious about lowering emissions and widening access to affordable EV’s this is a powerful tool to add to our toolbox.
While we are at it, we should seriously consider Kit Wilkerson’s view on safety. Wilkerson is the Head of Policy and Strategy at the VIA. His view is that ANCAP is flawed because it only looks at the safety of the driver, not other road users. He has a very valid point.
Five star ANCAP is awarded without any real consideration for other users. “I”, the driver am safer in a 5 star car than “you”, the other driver, cyclist, or pedestrian. Yet we share the road, so vehicle safety should be about measuring harm to other users in equal measure to protecting the driver from harm. With a shift in focus to collective harm reduction and safety, we would encourage smaller lighter vehicles to be used.
A combination of allowing smaller lighter cars, with much lower price points makes a lot of sense. It's an easy win for New Zealand consumers, the NZ government, the pockets of Kiwi commuters and the environment.
Images: | Wuling Hongguang Mini EV | Fiat Topolino Concept | Paxster | Changan Lumin
 Source: StatsNZ New Zealand Household Travel Survey: Travel to work, by main urban area results (3-year moving average) (stats.govt.nz)
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