Is the gasoline car as dead as the dodo?


New research shows the breathtaking speed with which New Zealand has adopted low-emission vehicles, with one expert predicting electric vehicle registrations will overtake petrol cars in less than a year. Justin Lester handles the numbers.

Do you have a VE? If not, it’s probably just a matter of time. New analysis from data science firm Dot Loves Data, where I am a government director, shows the sun is clearly setting on fossil-fuel powered vehicles. New Zealand sales of low-emission cars are soaring and will overtake petrol and diesel sales by mid-2023, a fundamental tipping point in consumer buying behavior. Gas-powered cars could soon become museum pieces and modern fossils, just like the fuel that powers them.

Our analysis is based on the meteoric growth of low-emission car purchases. In 2014, there were fewer than 100 electric vehicles registered in New Zealand. In 2018, there were 4,123. In the first nine months of 2022, the number jumped to 13,034. Sales of hybrid cars are even higher, with almost 5,000 new hybrid vehicles registered in September 2022 alone.

Where does the growth come from?

Growth in 2022 was driven by three factors: the introduction of the government’s clean car rebate scheme, the popularity of new Tesla models, and the continued decline in popularity of petrol and diesel cars, which have been declining ever since. end of 2017.

In a final bout of rebellion, 15,295 more petrol and diesel cars were purchased in March 2022, compared to the monthly average, to avoid paying the high-emission vehicle charge introduced on April 1, dubbed a “ ute tax” by opponents of the regime. The exhaust-fueled peak did not last, with sales of petrol and diesel cars having fallen by a third since April.

Conversely, sales of low-emission vehicles have increased by 31% since the program was introduced.

Data scientist Ben van Noorden predicts that the registration of low-emission vehicles will overtake that of gasoline and diesel vehicles by the middle of 2023, a fundamental tipping point in the automotive industry. Any future move to abolish the clean car rebate would, according to van Noorden, be a step backwards and leave New Zealand “choking on its exhaust fumes”.

Van Noorden points out that the “exhaust peak” was reached in New Zealand in October 2017, when monthly sales of fossil fuel passenger vehicles reached 22,494. This has steadily declined to the extent that 10,033 vehicles fossil fuel were sold in September 2022.

The second factor driving electric vehicle sales has been the popularity of lower-cost Teslas and the Nissan Leaf. The Nissan Leafs led the explosion in electric vehicle sales from 2015 in the face of weak competition from other automakers. Tesla took pole position in 2021 with the release of the Model 3 and then the Model Y in New Zealand.

The new movers are Chinese companies BYD and MG, with the Tesla Model Y, BYD Atto 3 and MG ZS topping sales in September 2022, with the Nissan Leaf falling. Extraordinarily, the Tesla Model Y outsold all other vehicles in September, finishing ahead of the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

Who buys low-emission cars?

Wellington tends to be the catalyst for social change (think nuclear-free or LGBTQI+ rights) and it’s no different for low-emission vehicle purchases. Five of the country’s top 10 retail areas are in the Wellington region, followed by Christchurch, Auckland, Queenstown and Dunedin.

While low-emission sales are increasing in all regions of New Zealand, the lowest per capita uptake is in the low-income rural areas of Wairoa, Kawerau, Otorohanga, Waitomo and South Waikato. According to our data, 637 out of 10,000 Wellington residents now own a low-emission vehicle, while in Wairoa 74 residents have one, highlighting the current barriers of rurality and declining income. We expect that to change as low-emission used vehicles soon enter the market.

Dot Loves Data analysis shows that low-emission vehicles are becoming more common. Early adopters of electric vehicles were primarily low-deprivation, progressive, environmentalist city dwellers. Since the introduction of the clean car rebate, Labor voting areas have become increasingly EV-centric, while the negative association with EVs in National and ACT voting areas is much less pronounced .

The analysis suggests that fossil fuel cars will soon follow the same path as cigarettes and cheese hedgehogs. Where both were once fashionable, their decline was accelerated by the social stigma attached to them. Based on the current trend in consumer buying behavior, it is likely that similar societal pressure will marginalize gas-powered car ownership.

In 2023, sales of new low-emission vehicles will exceed those of fossil-fuel cars. As low-emission used vehicles enter the automotive market, current consumer trends indicate that it will only take years, rather than decades, before fossil-fuel cars become fossil fuels themselves. modern.

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