Hybrid vs Electric car – New Zealand market warming up


When the Government announced in 2018 that New Zealand would give up oil and gas by 2050, many people, myself included tried to imagine what New Zealand’s vehicle fleet would look like then. Some of us might have envisaged huge plug in walls at supermarkets and service stations. Some might have thought about how the bulky power cords that exist in electric cars such as the B.M.W. i3 and whether people would be willing to drive around and find somewhere they could leave them on charge overnight.

Reality did not take long to bite. Many New Zealanders can only afford a second hand car that might cost N.Z.$15,000 or so, and might have several years of age. When petrol prices, registration and maintenance are factored in, even that becomes a challenge for a number of people. Because of that our car fleet is one of the oldest in the western world. Australia, for all its lack of action on climate change has forbidden a car to be older than 10 years, whereas Toyota Surf’s, Subaru Legacy’s and Ford Falcon’s from the mid 1990’s are still commonly seen on New Zealand’s roads.

Electric charging cars are being challenged by a surge in hybrid options, especially from Toyota, whose aim is to provide a hybrid option for every single vehicle type in its range by 2025. Toyota’s hybrid range thus far includes:

  • Camry (N.Z.$41,490)
  • Corolla (N.Z.$33,490)
  • RAV4 (N.Z.$47,990)
  • Prius
  • Yaris (to be confirmed)

The ones still to have hybrid options included are the 86, C-HR, Fortuner Highlander, Prado and Prado 200. Notably the newer additions to the New Zealand range have existed overseas for several years. Toyota announced in 2012 that it was going to introduce a RAV4 hybrid, whereas they have only just started to appear in New Zealand in recent months. The same company introduced a hybrid Yaris to the market the same year.

But the electric car market is fighting back. Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Tesla have all introduced models to the market. Depending on age of the vehicle model and the year when it was new, prices range from $8,000-$15,000 for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at one end of the scale to $90,000+ for Tesla’s Model S. In fairness to electric cars, which have the perception of needing to be plugged in more frequently than perhaps they do, the longest range ones can go up to 540km in the case of the Tesla Model S. Other models are more restrictive and the shortest range ones might be best as urban area run-abouts.

It also has Government support on its side as petroleum and diesel vehicles are going to be phased out by 2050. And lofty as these plans might seem, if a bit of forward planning is done, there are also significant economic benefits from making the New Zealand private vehicle fleet more efficient. The question is, do the motoring lobby want to know?