Insight: Comparing the New Zealand and Australian electric vehicle market.

New Zealand's hydropower engineers and innovators sowed the seed for faster BEV adoption for New Zealand 135 years ago. In 15 short years between 1885 and1901 three commercial hydro-stations were built, and the first commercial hydropower station was commissioned by the government. Now over 80% of our electricity is made from renewables.


Just over a century later New Zealand discovered a plentiful supply of cheap used cars, after import duties were abolished on second hand imports. With a flood of cheap petrol cars there was a trickle of used ex-JDM Nissan Leaf. For the last three years NZ has taken around 200 used Leaf from Japan every month.


In April 2017 Waka Kotahi set a vision for a nationwide coverage of fast or rapid charging stations every 75kms across New Zealand state highways, under the National Government of the time.


In July 2021 the first stage of the Clean Car programme was implemented that set a significant rebate for BEVs and PHEVs for initial registration at a consistent level across the country.


These are the four milestone moments that have helped propel New Zealand's market and appetite for electric vehicles. As a result of these milestones, our BEV adoption is significantly ahead of Australia's.


While there is no doubt that Australia's overall market for passenger vehicles is significantly larger than New Zealand's, the gap is closing, albeit very slowly. Ten years ago NZ was just 10% of Australia's market. YTD it is 14 per cent, reflecting the strength of the local economy post COVID, versus Australia's tougher journey.


In quarter one this year, New Zealand's share of the passenger vehicle market for pure BEV is 10.2%, PHEV is 3.7%. (13.9% combined). In Australia BEV is 3.6% and PHEV is 0.6% (4.2% combined). This means that there were 6742 BEVs registered in Australia to New Zealand's 2823, while PHEV volume is almost the same in both markets at 1047 Au cf. 1027 in New Zealand.


Tesla Model 3 dominated both markets, although Tesla sells the equivalent of 30% of Australia's volume in New Zealand, and Polestar sold almost the same volume in both markets. Both brands would incur lower distribution and infrastructure costs for their New Zealand volume.


In practical terms, it is likely that New Zealand's adoption rate of New Energy Vehicles will be ahead of Australia's for some years to come. We can thank our 19th century pioneers for the head start.


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