Lack of supply hits popular electric vehicle market

Auto Court manager Nelson Cottle demonstrates how to charge one of the two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles in the yard. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Auto Court manager Nelson Cottle demonstrates how to charge one of the two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles in the yard. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Electric vehicles are growing in popularity in New Zealand, and Otago is doing well on a per capita ownership basis.

The only problem seems to be the lack of supply. Prices are going up in Japan and the vehicles are harder to source.

Ministry of Transport figures showed Japanese used car sales in New Zealand in the 2016-17 year were made up of 15,299 battery electric vehicles and 9390 plug-in hybrids.

Total EVs ever registered in New Zealand grew to 151,089 in the year.

In 2017, 1831 light EVs were registered in Auckland, 421 were registered in Wellington, 475 in Canterbury and 213 in Otago. Otago's peak sales were in October and November - 27 and 29 respectively.

The ministry said on its website a key limitation of EV uptake in New Zealand was the availability of used imports.

''They are dominating registrations at present but the supply from Japan is limited and only growing slowly.''

There had only been 150,000 registered in New Zealand in total and New Zealand was importing more used vehicles per year than that at present, the ministry said.

Auto Court manager Nelson Cottle had noticed the spike in prices and Auto Court was finding it harder to source vehicles from Japan.

Auto Court first started importing Nissan Leaf vehicles in 2015, bringing in one vehicle to give it a try, he said yesterday.

It took two months to sell the first Leaf and it went to a North Island buyer.

When Auto Court bought more, Mr Cottle found the price had gone up.

From 2016, the company had started buying more electric vehicles, not only the Nissan Leaf, and was finding some were selling before they had arrived in New Zealand.

In Dunedin, there was a good EV group which promoted the vehicles at schools and functions.

Selling the electric vehicles took more explaining than selling a petrol car, he said.

The vehicles had very low maintenance, no oil changes and much fewer moving parts. The electric motor had only six moving parts compared to hundreds in a combustion engine.

The EVs had 100% torque through the entire rev range and there was no need to change gears.

The Nissan Leaf was recently rated the most reliable car in New Zealand.

The range of the vehicles was not huge but most customers charged their car at home, using it daily around town. Several customers had bought an EV, keeping their petrol car for out-of-town trips and holidays, Mr Cottle said.

He had noticed a growing demand in recent months but prices were rising as fresh stock arrived.

Yesterday, Auto Court had only two Nissan Leaf vehicles on site when it normally would have had up to 25. Other EVs were available, such as a van bought by a Central Otago business, which installed a separate meter to monitor the use of the vehicle. The vehicle had travelled 4000km at a cost of $80, Mr Cottle said.

EVs made up to 25% of Auto Court sales and the Leaf was a popular choice.

A ''good'' 2011 Leaf with 20,000km would sell for about $14,000.

The only likely problem for an EV was batteries having to be rebalanced, something that had happened only once to an Auto Court customer.

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