Hybrid and electric vehicles

With more kiwis making the switch to electric or hybrid vehicles, and more options to choose from, could an EV or hybrid suit you?

How it works

Getting your head around the different types of electric and hybrid vehicles, and the acronyms used, can be confusing. 

Electric vehicles (EVs)

There are two main types of EVs:

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These are ‘pure’ or fully electric vehicles. BEVs are powered by an electric battery, instead of a conventional engine. Instead of filling up your car with petrol or diesel, you plug it in to recharge it. According to Drive Electric, BEVs have a ‘range’ which is the distance you can travel on a full charge, from around 200km to over 600km - although the actual range you get depends on a number of factors including how, where and when you drive it. EV and battery technology is changing fast, so it’s reasonable to expect that the range of EVs will continue to grow.

Petrol Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEVs essentially have two motors – an electric battery and a conventional petrol or diesel engine. The battery is much smaller than in a BEV, so the distance they can travel in electric mode is also much smaller. According to Drive Electric this is typically between around 30km – 80km – enough for most daily commutes. Once the power in the battery has been used up, the conventional engine takes over – giving PHEVs an effective range of the battery and engine combined, similar to a traditional petrol or diesel-powered vehicle.

Hybrid vehicles (HVs)

Hybrid Vehicles (HVs) are like electric vehicles – but not quite. Hybrid vehicles have both a conventional engine and an electric motor, which work together to reduce fuel consumption.

Strictly speaking they’re not electric vehicles because the batteries for the electric motor can’t be recharged by plugging them in. Instead they’re charged by the conventional engine and by energy created when the car brakes called ‘regenerative braking’. 

The original Toyota Prius is perhaps the most well-known example of a Hybrid vehicle.


There are three ways to charge an electric vehicle:

  • by plugging it into a normal 3-pin wall socket at home – the same socket as your toaster uses;
  • by plugging it into a special home EV charging unit;
  • at public charging stations.

Charging your EV at home during off-peak hours e.g. overnight is likely the cheapest and most convenient option (Source: Gen Less). Plugging it into a 3-pin socket is simple, but it takes longer – depending on the EV and the size of the battery, a full charge can take 10-12 hours.

However, if you install a wall-mounted ‘smart’ EV charging unit, you can reduce that to around 4 hours – depending on the EV and battery size. 

Another advantage of wall-mounted charging units is that most of them come with a smartphone app which gives you more control over charging, such as taking advantage of cheaper electricity rates. It’s important to remember that dedicated EV charging units must be installed by a registered electrician.

Most of the time the majority of EVs are charged at home but there is also a large and growing network of public charging stations around New Zealand. 

Some offer the same type of charging as a wall home unit, and many of these are free to use. But there are also many fast charging stations which you pay to use and depending on the EV, can get you to an 80% charge in around 45 minutes.  

Find out more about charging options, including how to find public charging stations, at Gen Less. Waka Kotahi (the New Zealand Transport Agency) also compiles a map of public charging stations around the country.

How much it costs

Prices for new EVs excluding on-road costs start from around $46,000. For a list of EVs available in NZ and indicative prices, check out Drive Electric. There is also an increasing number of used EVs available. New hybrids tend to be less expensive than new EVs.

Clean Car Discount Scheme

While EVs are currently more expensive than equivalent ‘conventional’ cars, pricing is coming down as more appear on our roads. The government’s Clean Car Discount Scheme also offers rebates for EVs and other low-emission vehicles. To qualify, they must have:

  • a purchase price of less than $80,000,
  • been first registered in New Zealand from 1 July 2021, and
  • have a 3-star or more safety rating on the Rightcar website

Here’s how it works:

For new or used EVs first registered in NZ between 1 July 2021 and 31 March 2022 

The following rebates apply:

New vehicle (inc. GST)

Used import (inc. GST)







For new or used vehicles first registered in NZ from 1 April 2022

The rebate for each vehicle is now calculated according to its carbon emissions. Broadly speaking, most BEVs and PHEVs will still be eligible for the same rebates as above, but other low-emission vehicles (such as hybrid vehicles) may also qualify for a rebate.

You can find out the potential rebate for a particular type or model of EV at the government’s Rightcar website. Car dealers must also clearly display on each vehicle its emissions and the Clean Car Discount it qualifies for.

Running costs

Charging an electric vehicle is a lot cheaper than fuelling a conventional one. Gen Less estimates that charging an EV at home, off-peak, is the equivalent of paying 40 cents a litre for petrol.

In a 2020 trial by Consumer New Zealand the BEV used had significantly lower running costs than either the PHEV or Hybrid Vehicle in the trial, due mainly to fuel costs. The PHEV’s running costs were slightly less than the Hybrid Vehicles. It’s important to remember that a) the cost of fuel has changed since then and b) running costs will vary depending on how and where vehicles are driven.

Wall-mounted charging units

Home charging units can cost around $1,000 - $3,000, plus installation costs of around $2,000 – depending on the unit and the wiring in your home (Source: Genesis Energy). 

Good Energy Upgrades are just one step away


There are two kinds of emissions to consider:

  • emissions from driving the vehicle (‘tailpipe’ emissions)
  • lifetime emissions (this takes into account total emissions from manufacturing the vehicle, including the battery, charging/refuelling and driving the vehicle, over it’s lifetime.

Emissions from driving

Pure electric vehicles (BEVs) produce no tailpipe emissions. However, emissions are produced from creating electricity to charge the vehicle, so driving a BEV isn’t emission-free. The good news is that in New Zealand, 80-90% of the electricity in our national grid is from renewable sources, so driving a BEV creates much fewer emissions than driving a conventional car.

It’s a little more complicated with PHEVs and Hybrid vehicles (HVs). 

When you’re driving a PHEV in electric mode, there are also no tailpipe emissions so it’s just like a BEV. When the petrol engine kicks in, however, you’re using fossil fuels. If you charge the battery regularly and make the most of the electric mode to reduce fuel consumption, PHEVs can be effective in reducing emissions from driving. The more you use the petrol engine however, the more emissions you create.

Hybrid vehicles don’t have an electric-only mode, but they’re more fuel-efficient than conventional cars – so while there will always be tailpipe emissions, they emit fewer greenhouse gases per kilometre. 

It’s important to remember that fuel efficiency also depends on a range of things including how you drive, when you drive, and (for PHEVs) how often you charge the battery.

Lifetime emissions

While it’s true that manufacturing electric vehicles creates more emissions than manufacturing conventional vehicles because of the extra energy required to manufacture the batteries, this evens itself out over the life of the vehicle. In fact, according to the Climate Change Commission, an EV used in Aotearoa emits about 60% fewer emissions over its full life cycle than an equivalent petrol vehicle. 


As BEVs have fewer moving parts than a conventional engine, they’re simpler to service – for example there’s no oil changes, fuel filters, drive or timing belts, or spark plug replacements to worry about.

While EV batteries are designed to last for many years, their capacity does reduce over time. When the capacity is no longer useful, the battery can sometimes be refurbished by replacing dead cells, or it may need to be replaced. Replacement batteries can be expensive (currently several thousand dollars) but research by EECA shows that factors such as lower running and servicing costs mean some BEVs can still compete with petrol cars in terms of total cost of ownership - even factoring in the cost of replacing the battery. Continual developments in battery technology mean it’s hard to predict exactly how total cost of ownership may compare in the future (Source: Gen Less).   

PHEVs have both an electric motor and conventional engine, so will have similar servicing needs as a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle.

Benefits — for you and the planet

Lower tailpipe emissions

Driving an electric vehicle creates much lower emissions than cars powered by fossil fuels – in fact BEVs produce no tailpipe emissions at all.

Lower lifetime emissions

While the production of EV batteries creates greenhouse gas emissions, EVs produce 60% less greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life than conventional petrol or diesel vehicles (Source: Gen Less).

Less noise pollution

EVs are much quieter than conventional petrol or diesel vehicles.

Is a hybrid or electric vehicle right for you

If you’re able to charge an EV safely and easily at home or work, EVs can offer many advantages – they have less fuel costs and are better for the environment than petrol or diesel vehicles. 

Whether a BEV or a PHEV is best for you could depend on your situation. For example:

  • • If you use your vehicle mostly for trips within battery range, or you want an economical option for commuting or getting around town, a BEV can be a good option.
  • • If you often drive longer distances (or a mixture of longer and shorter distances), or you want the flexibility of having the longer range that comes with a petrol engine, a PHEV might suit you.   

There’s a lot to think about so it’s essential to do your homework. Before you take the leap, check out the Gen Less EV Buying Guide for more information and help.

How to get a hybrid or electric vehicle

Important information

The material is information only and you should seek professional advice about your circumstances. While we’ve taken care to ensure the information is reliable, we don’t warrant its accuracy, completeness, or suitability for your intended use. To the extent the law allows, we don’t accept any responsibility or liability arising from your use or reliance on this information.