Top Selling Electric Cars in New Zealand

Electric cars are seeing bumper sales as Kiwis ditch the pump for the plug. And if you’re interested in joining them, what options do you have? Canstar looks at the top selling electric cars in New Zealand.

Despite how it may appear, there’s plenty more to the electric car market than just Teslas. While the Tesla Model 3 is the go-to model for many looking to go green over gas, new makes and models are constantly hitting our shores. Once dominated by EV posterchild, the Nissan Leaf, the electric car market is now made up of electric cars or, at the very least, plug-in hybrids from nearly every car manufacturer on the planet. Even if it does feel as if Tesla is the only marque anyone buys.

So with the market growing so quickly, what is the state of the EV market here in New Zealand? And what models are most popular? Canstar takes a look at the top selling electric cars in New Zealand, and everything else you need to know.

In this article we cover:

Overview of the EV market in New Zealand
Why consider an EV?
What is the Clean Car Discount?
Top selling electric cars in New Zealand
What about hybrids?

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See here for our ratings methodology. The table above is an abridged version of our research. For the full results of our 2021 Most Satisfied Car Insurance Ratings and Award, click here.

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An overview of electric cars and the New Zealand market

Kiwis are big on their cars. For a country of a little over 5 million, we have around 4.5 million cars. That means despite a sizeable chunk of us not having a licence, whether by choice or on the account of being a child, there’s still nearly a car each to go around. And our appetite isn’t slowing down. 2021 was a huge year for car sales, and 2022 has kicked off in a similar fashion. So how do electric vehicles fit into the picture?

The reality is, EVs currently make up around 1% of vehicles in New Zealand. And while that means our current EV fleet is close to non-existent, it’s important to understand the full picture before jumping to conclusions. Some reasons for this are:

  • Many of our cars are older, second-hand imports. And because the modern EV market is still young, there isn’t yet a large number of good-quality, older, second-hand EVs available
  • Utes and commercial vehicles are essential to much of our agricultural sector. These are also typically the last to see electrification
  • EVs are currently much more expensive than petrol models, pricing out many Kiwis
  • EVs with a sizeable range (300km plus) didn’t exist on a large scale until recent years. Factor in that our network of public charging stations was pretty barren until recently, and EVs just weren’t that suitable for many Kiwis

These issues are all expected to change in the coming years. Soon there will be plenty of excellent EVs that are a few years old and available second-hand. EV technology is improving rapidly and electric utes, trucks and commercial vehicles have begun hitting the shelves. And some reports are predicting that by as early as 2027, EVs will be cheaper to manufacture than petrol models. Plus our public charging network is now widespread, and only set to grow more!

Electric cars and new car sales

While our current fleet of electric cars is small, if you look at just new car sales, the figures are more promising. March 2022 was our biggest month on record for new EV sales. A massive 1761 new EVs and 443 hybrids sold, comprising over 10% of all new car sales (commercial and passenger) for the month of March.

You’ve also got to factor in that March saw higher than usual sales of gas-guzzling utes and heavy vehicles (as consumers rushed to beat the incoming ute tax).

We’re also seeing record-breaking EV sales year-on-year, so you can only expect these to grow, too. The government hopes that by the end of the decade over 50% of all new cars sold will be electric.

Looking to April, and the story’s a little different. The car market has been devastated by supply chain issues and, as a result, there were just 273 EV sales, including just a single Tesla Model 3. Hybrid vehicles feared better, with 1113 passenger and SUV hybrids sold. The biggest month so far.

→Related article: Top Selling Cars in New Zealand

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 Why consider an EV?

Electric cars still face a bit of a bad image here in New Zealand. We like our cars to be big and grunty (SUVs account for around half of all vehicle sales, including commercial) and we like to take regular trips to the countryside. And for these reasons, we feel electric cars aren’t suitable.

But modern EVs offer plenty of range, lots of models (including SUVs) and even rural NZ has a growing number of public charging stations. Not to mention the fact most EVs can be plugged into any old wall socket.

Other key benefits of an electric car include:

  • Lower operating costs – electricity costs on charging an electric car are significantly cheaper than petrol prices
  • Environmentally friendly –  the total emissions per mile for battery-powered cars are lower than comparable cars with internal combustion engines. Especially in NZ where much of our energy comes from renewable sources
  • Clean car discount – Low emission vehicles such as EVs and plug-in hybrids qualify for a government rebate
  • They’re smooth and quiet – there’s no engine noise and with no gears to work through, an EV is able to apply full power as soon as you touch the accelerator
  • Exempt from road user charges – until March 2024
  • Added safety – the weighty battery pack gives your EV a lower centre of gravity, so it’s less likely to roll. The lack of petrol or diesel also reduces the likelihood of it catching fire in a crash
  • NZ’s climate is ideal for electric cars – extreme heat and cold can impact an electric car’s battery life. Thankfully, many parts of NZ has an ideal temperate climate.

If you’re going to be charging your EV at home, you’ll need a power plan to match. Head over to Canstar Blue to compare electricity providers, or check out some of the best power plans for electric vehicles.

electric car charging

What is the Clean Car Discount?

The Clean Car Discount is a government initiative introduced in July 2021. As electric and Hybrid vehicles are typically costlier than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, the initiative was designed to encourage Kiwis to opt for carbon-friendly vehicles by making them more accessible.

Initially, it provided fixed cashback rebates for consumers that purchased electric (BEV) and hybrid (PHEV) vehicles. Those rebates were:

As of April 1, 2022, updates to the Clean Car Discount scheme have changed the way it’s implemented. Notably:

  • Fixed rebate amounts have moved to a sliding scale based on the emission levels of the vehicle
  • All low emission vehicles, including ICE vehicles, can qualify for a rebate
  • In addition to rebates for low emission vehicles, fees for high emission vehicles have been added

As you can see from the above graph, any vehicles below the zero band receive a rebate. The more environmentally friendly the vehicle, the larger the rebate. Some petrol/diesel vehicles may qualify, but any significant rebates will likely be on hybrid and electric vehicles. As a part of the changes, a feebate is now applied to high emission vehicles in the same way as the rebate. Any vehicle that falls above the zero band will incur a fee. The higher a vehicle’s emissions, the larger the fee.

How do I receive the discount?

To qualify for the discount your vehicle must:

  • Cost less than $80,000 including GST and on-road costs
  • Be new or new to New Zealand (used-import) registered for the first time in New Zealand from 1 April 2022.
  • Have a safety rating of 3-stars or more on the RightCar website at the time of registration

Following the purchase of an eligible vehicle you (the registered person) will need to apply for the rebate online (providing the sale agreement, plates number and your bank account). Waka Kotahi will then transfer the rebate to your account.

For more details on the Clean Car Discount, click here.

Top selling electric cars in New Zealand

March was a record month for EV sales: 1761 EVs and 443 hybrids. This was largely driven by Tesla. There was an average of 30 new Model 3s on our roads every day in March, up from 12 a day in February. But as mentioned above, April saw plummeting figures as the EV industry struggled with supply chain issues, with just 273 new EVs on the road.

Top Selling Electric Cars, April 2022 Top Selling Electric Cars, Year to Date 2022
1 Polestar 2 1 Tesla Model 3
2 Nissan Leaf 2 Hyundai Kona EV
3 Hyundai IONIQ 3 MG ZS EV
4 Kia EV6 4 Polestar 2
5 Mini Hatch 5 Kia Niro
6 Porsche Taycan 6 Hyundai IONIQ 5
7 Audi E-Tron GT 7 Mini Hatch
8 BMW I 8 Lexus UX300e
9 Peugeot 208 9 Mercedes-Benz EQC
10 Tesla Model 3 10 Nissan Leaf

*This list includes total electric vehicles (BEV) only, petrol-electric hybrids (PHEV) are not included.

Best electric cars in New Zealand

Below you can see a list of some of the best and most popular EVs in the country:

electric cars tesla model 3

Tesla Model 3 (from $63,775*)

There’s no denying Tesla-mania is here. It can feel as if every time you’re stuck at a stoplight there’s a Tesla in front or behind you. The Model 3 is in many ways the new Nissan Leaf. Not because of performance, where it far outperforms the old Leaf models, but because they are becoming synonymous with the EV market as a whole.

It’s easy to see why the Model 3 is a popular choice. Tesla has made its name in innovation and its EVs are seen to be futuristic, packed full of smart design details and features that are ahead of the rest of the pack. After all, how many cars can drive themselves out of the garage? It’s also reasonably priced compared to many other EVs.

The Model 3 features*:

  • 491-602km range on a single charge (depending on model)
  • 5-star safety rating
  • Autopilot driving assist can change lanes, park, and even summon your car to you
  • 15-inch touch screen
  • Full glass roof

*Some features come as add-ons for an additional cost.

electric cars hyundai kona series 2

Hyundai Kona Electric Series II (From $61,365*)

The Hyundai Kona Electric Series II is an updated model of the popular Hyundai Kona Electric. Hitting our shores just last year, it’s currently one of the most popular new electric cars on our streets.

The Hyundai Kona Electric Series II features:

  • 305-484km range on a single charge (depending on model)
  • Smart cruise control
  • 5-star safety rating

electric cars hyundai ioniq 5

Hyundai IONIQ 5 (From $71,365*)

The brand new update to the already popular IONIQ (last year’s sales were just one spot behind the original IONIQ, despite only entering the NZ market part way through the year) the IONIQ 5 is a more premium offering from Hyundai. A finalist for World Car of the Year, it features a sharp retro design reminiscent of the company’s iconic Hyundai Pony – considered to be Korea’s first-ever mass-produced car.

The Hyundai IONIQ 5 features:

  • 384-481km range on a single charge (depending on model)
  • 12.3-inch touchscreen
  • 5-star safety rating
  • A solar roof that partially charges the vehicle’s battery
  • Vehicle-to-load charging means you can charge an e-bike, camping equipment, and certain appliances with your vehicle’s stored energy
  • Driving assistance such as lane follow assist and collision avoidance

electric cars mg zs ev

MG ZS EV (From $40,365*)

New Zealand’s cheapest EV, the MG ZS EV, is a popular choice despite a cryptic sounding name. For those keen to enter the EV market, but who are on a budget, this all-electric SUV could be a great option. With the clean car discount, the MG ZS EV costs as little as $40,000, a price that is currently unheard of in the EV market (over $10,000 cheaper than any other BEV).

The MG ZS EV features:

  • 263km range on a single charge
  • 5-star safety rating
  • 10.1-inch touch screen display
  • Driving assist features

electric cars mini hatch EV

Mini Hatch EV (From $51,775*)

As mentioned above, EVs are still somewhat judged by the first Nissan Leaf models. For many, the term electric car evokes images of tiny cars with piddling top speeds and impractically small ranges. Hardly fair considering despite remaining as cute and zippy as ever, the newest Nissan Leaf has a 270-385km range.

But the Mini Hatch EV is a testament to the fact that there’s still a place for small cars in New Zealand’s EV market. The Mini Hatch EV has been wildly popular in a market overrun by SUVs.

The Mini Hatch EV features:

  • 233km range on a single charge
  • 3-star safety rating
  • Heads-up display puts key info directly onto your windscreen
  • Driver assistance features

*All prices listed include the $8625 clean car discount. Actual sticker prices will be higher. All prices listed should be used as a guide only.

Car Insurance | Most Satisfied Customers

Looking for the best car insurance? The grid below reveals some of the best New Zealand car insurance providers as voted by their customers, including State, the five-star winner of our prestigious award for Most Satisfied Customers | Car Insurance.

Insurance Brand
Overall Satisfaction
Value for Money
More Info

AA insurance logo

NZI Car Insurance

See here for our ratings methodology. The table above is an abridged version of our research. For the full results of our 2021 Most Satisfied Car Insurance Ratings and Award, click here.

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What about hybrids?

The future is electric, that much is clear. And while an electric car can realistically be your go-to for city trips and weekends away, not everyone is convinced. If you don’t like the idea of stopping at a public charging network for a half-hour mid-drive, or you live or visit truly remote areas that have limited charging stations, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) may be a good option.

These allow you to primarily use the electric battery for shorter trips, while giving the convenience and assurance of a petrol engine to fall back on. If this sounds good to you, a plug-in hybrid could be a good option. At least until it’s time for the next upgrade, by which point you can expect EV technology to be far beyond where it’s at now.

Some things to consider before choosing a PHEV over an EV:

  • The price of a plug-in hybrid tends to be lower than that of an EV (MG ZS EV aside)
  • The battery range is significantly less than with a full EV, often only 40-60km.
  • PHEVs are eligible for a clean-car discount, but not as significant as that of a full EV

→Related article: Should You Buy a Hybrid? The Best Hybrid Cars in New Zealand

Top selling plug-in hybrid cars in New Zealand

In the table below you can see the top-selling plug-in hybrid cars in New Zealand based on data from the Motor Industry Association.

Top Selling PHEVs, April 2022 Top Selling PHEVs, Year to Date
1 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 1 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
2 Mitsubishi Outlander 2 Mitsubishi Outlander
4 Hyundai IONIQ 4 Skoda Octavia
5 Skoda Octavia 5 Mini Countryman
6 Volvo XC60 6 Hyundai IONIQ
7 BMW X5 7 Peugeot 3008
8 Mercedes-Benz GLC 8 Toyota Prius
9 Porsche Taycan 9 Kia Sorento
10 Porsche Cayenne 10 Kia Niro

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author andrew broadley

About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an
experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth
working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism
and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more
recently, finance for Canstar.

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