Charging a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV): What do You Need?

If you’re keen to get behind the wheel of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, you should also weigh up your various charging options.

If you’re considering making your next car a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) you’re by no means alone. Government statistics show that sales have been on an upswing since last year’s introduction of the Clean Car Discount rebate scheme. However, before getting behind the wheel of a new battery-powered vehicle, you’ll need to consider your home charging se-tup.

A plug-in hybrid brings together the old and the new. Combining battery and fuel power, alternating between the two as required. This means you can prioritise battery power, using petrol or diesel as a back-up option. Of course, to ensure you’re mostly running on battery, you’ll need ready access to vehicle charging options.

Different PHEVs come with different battery capacities and charging requirements. In the following guide, we take a look at some of the common charging options available, and whether you need to install additional charging equipment at your property.

What is a plug-in hybrid or PHEV?

Plug-in hybrids have an important role to play in the transition to zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs). While EV sales are growing year on year, PHEVs can appeal to drivers who regularly tackle long-distance trips, or are based in more remote areas of the country, where charging stations aren’t always an option.

PHEVs have an electric motor and battery (charged via an external power supply), along with a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine. A PHEV typically prioritises battery power (driving in EV mode). However, if the battery is running low, the engine will kick in.

While EV range is improving, certain drivers may feel it doesn’t offer them enough range or the reliability and comfort of more traditional petrol or diesel vehicle. Furthermore, despite New Zealand’s ever-expanding network of public charging stations, rural drivers, or those who enjoy regular trips to the countryside may find charging options inadequate. This is where PHEVs can help. Providing the savings and environmental benefits of an EV, and the reliability and freedom of a petrol/diesel vehicle.

A plug-in hybrid may be suitable for drivers who:

  • Beyond battery range – frequently drive beyond the battery range
  • Long and short trips – need a car for a mix of different trips
  • Rural drivers – where charging stations are unavailable
  • Waiting in traffic – find themselves sitting in traffic a lot
  • Overnight charging – have facilities for overnight charging at home or work
  • Off-street parking – have an area such as a driveway or garage with access to a power point

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Do all hybrid cars need to be plugged in?

No. Alongside plug-in hybrids, you have regular hybrid cars that do not need to be plugged in. Rather, these have a significantly smaller battery that is charged as you drive. While this sounds convenient, in reality, these cars do very little in the way of reducing reliance on petrol.

The small battery isn’t enough to do any significant driving before the petrol motor kicks in. So while in stop-start inner-city conditions these cars can idle and coast with little need for a petrol motor. Any significant speeds or distances require the car’s regular petrol motor.

This type of petrol hybrid does little to combat emissions and little to save you money at the pump. And these days, they aren’t really considered a true hybrid electric car. For this reason, they also don’t qualify for the government’s Clean Car Discount.

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Charging at home: What will you need?

If you’re considering purchasing a PHEV, it’s important to weigh up specific vehicle charging requirements and your home set-up. Easy access to charging facilities will help ensure you get the most out of your PHEV.

For PHEVs with a greater battery capacity, it may be worthwhile looking at faster-charging options. However, you should also assess a range of other factors, including the distances you’ll be driving from one day to the next, and how frequently you’ll be using your vehicle.

Given that a plug-in hybrid, as a rule, sports comparatively reduced battery capacity compared to a pure EV, it may well be that you can get by with charging from a standard household power point, instead of specially installed wall-mounted unit.

Standard household power point

PHEVs typically come with a portable charging cable that can be plugged into a standard household three-pin power point. So you won’t need to buy any extra equipment. Keep in mind that you should always use the cable supplied with your PHEV, and not use it in conjunction with other equipment, such as extension cables and adaptors.

You can simply plug your PHEV in for overnight charging, having it ready to go first thing in the morning. At a rate of around 10km per hour of charge, it’s slower than other tailored options. However, this shouldn’t be an issue if you have ample time to charge.  

Keep in mind that to leave your car charging overnight you’ll need a secure spot with access to a plug (such as in a garage). If this isn’t an option for you, you may only be able to leave the car charging in your driveway for a few hours each night. Depending on how far you drive, this may not be enough time to charge if you’re using a standard household three-pin power point.

It’s also important to note that before plugging in your PHEV, you should consult with an electrician about any modifications that may need to be made to your home’s wiring.

Wall-mounted unit

Installation of a wall-mounted unit means additional costs on top of your PHEV. But it can bring down your charging times considerably, compared to a standard power point. You’ll ultimately need to consider how fast is fast enough.

Many units offer speeds of around 30-40km per hour of charge. And for the time-sensitive, significantly faster models are also available. Smart charging features designed to help limit electricity costs are also available. This could be a good idea if you won’t be charging overnight, or if you think you’ll need to do some extra charging during weekends.

Along with weighing up the benefits of different models, keep in mind that a wall-mounted unit will need to be installed by an electrician.

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If you are looking to change electricity providers, or are unsure if you are getting the best deal, Canstar Blue can help. We rate NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the button below for the full results of our survey.

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Public charging: What are the options?

The public charging network continues to grow around New Zealand, providing drivers the additional option of charging while out and about. If you live in a major city, there are likely ample options available to you. But it may be worth checking specific locations. Will there be a station on your regular route that you can stop at without going out of your way?

Keep in mind that DC charging (offering the fastest charging) is not compatible with many PHEV models, which only connect to AC chargers. However, there is a mix of public AC and DC charging stations located around the country.

Fast chargers can add around 100km of range to a battery in 20-30 minutes (typically costing about $10 per 100km). Information on the AC and DC public charging network can be found here.

Clean Car Discount: EV and PHEV rebates available

Introduced in July 2021, the Clean Car Discount is designed to encourage the purchase of low-emission vehicles. Initially only for BEVs and PHEVs, as of April 1st 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

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.

Power plans: How to cut vehicle charging costs

There are a number of power plans that cater for plug-in vehicle charging. Typically, these employ a day/night tariff structure. This paves the way for charging at night (usually between 9pm and 7am) when electricity rates are cheaper.

Under this type of plan, you can simply plug in your car at night and wake up to a full charge. You can also run your household appliances during the cheaper tariff hours. Keep in mind that higher rates will apply during the day.

Charging at home off-peak is like buying petrol at around 40c per litre, depending on your retailer. But it’s worthwhile using tools, such as online calculators, to get a gauge on your own running costs.

→Related article: Electric Kiwi’s New MoveMaster Plan: Is It Right for You?

What plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs) are available in New Zealand?

There is a huge range of EV and PHEV vehicles available in NZ, and the market continues to expand rapidly. Already many popular existing car models come in EV or PHEV options. So you can still keep your seven-seater Mitsubishi Outlander, just opt for a plug-in hybrid version instead!

The reality of the market is that the days of gimmicky EV and PHEV specific models are long gone. And now, most cars come with EV and/or PHEV options. So you may just find your current, or favourite, car now comes in electric. Whether that’s an Eclipse Cross, a Porche Taycan, or a BMW330i. Even the Honda Civic is going electric in 2022! Contrary to what many people believe, you can go electric without compromising style or comfort.

Click through the links below to browse some popular EV and PHEV options in New Zealand.

→ Read more: Should You Buy a Hybrid? The Best Hybrid Cars in New Zealand
Read more: Top Selling Cars in New Zealand

About the author of this page

 Martin KovacsThis report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies

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