How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

Given rising petrol prices, getting behind the wheel of an electric car may be even more appealing for many. How do the costs compare?

Rising fuel costs are at the forefront of Kiwis’ minds. And you can’t blame them. Petrol prices have recently hit record highs, with unleaded 95 crossing the $3 threshold at a number of stations around New Zealand. And prices north of this mark could well become the norm by year’s end. Unleaded 91 isn’t far behind, either.

Confronted with rising bills at the pump, you may find yourself tuning into the growing buzz around electric cars. After all, how much could it cost to charge a battery?

Against this backdrop, the electric car/electric vehicle (EV) market is heating up in NZ. Aside from saving on fuel costs, there are increasingly affordable EVs arriving to market, and improved battery technologies have the potential to drive down prices further in the coming years. Currently, there is also the added sweetener of the Clean Car Discount, encompassing rebates for both new and used EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Of course, you’ll need to crunch the numbers before making a decision. Cutting out fuel may not be enough to outweigh some of the other costs or drawbacks. Or you may find choosing the plug over the pump is just one benefit of many.

In the following guide, we take a look at:

Electric cars vs petrol cars: initial costs
What is the Clean Car Discount?
How much does it cost to charge an EV?
Electric vehicle power plans
How long does an EVs battery last?
What other benefits are there to an electric car?
What about hybrids?


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Electric cars vs petrol cars: initial costs

New EVs are more expensive than their petrol equivalents. Not to say you can’t get an electric car for cheaper than a petrol car. But an electric version of the same car will cost far more than the petrol one. However, there is the potential for this price gap to significantly narrow as the market evolves in the coming years. Some reports are even predicting that by as early as 2027, EVs will be cheaper to manufacture than petrol models. But, as it stands, the initial cost difference will be enough to give most consumers pause for thought. Or even rule some out entirely.

As noted by Motor Trade Association Advocacy and Strategy Manager Greig Epps mid-last year, prices for new EVs start at about $48,000, averaging $68,000. By comparison, Epps said consumers “can get a really good new petrol car for under $30,000”.

The Clean Car Discount, covers some of this gap (more details below). But even so, the initial costs of a new petrol vehicle remain significantly less for the time being.

To provide further insight into these costs we’ve run the numbers on the top three selling EVs and top three petrol vehicles in New Zealand for the full-year 2021.

Top three selling EVs

Car model  Approx Starting Price
Tesla Model 3 $65,000
MG ZS EV $49,000
Hyundai Kona EV $70,000

Top three selling cars

Car model Approx Starting Price
Mitsubishi Outlander $34,000
Toyota RAV4 $38,000
Mitsubishi ASX $28,000

As you can see above, the top three electric cars are around twice the price of the top three selling petrol cars. Which is a significant cost. Even when you factor in the Clean Car Discount. 

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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 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

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.

How much does it cost to charge an Electric car?

An electric car costs more upfront, but this isn’t where saving are made. Most people that are interested in electric cars are interested for one main reason: no more fuel.

Cutting out petrol isn’t just good for the planet, but with the price of 95 hitting $3 in parts of the country, and 91 not far behind, Kiwis are keener than ever to go green over gas.

The following table details the cost per 100km for last year’s top three EVs, and based on a national average electricity price of 31c per kWh. Keep in mind that electricity prices vary, so check your individual plan to find your cost per kWh:

Car model kWh per 100km Cost per 100km
Tesla Model 3 14.3kWh $4.43
MG ZS EV 18.6kWh $5.77
Hyundai Kona EV 14.3kWh $4.43

Keep in mind that if you are using a public charging station (the EV equivalent of a petrol station) and not your own home’s power supply, the costs may be significantly different. Vector currently offers some free charging sites, but your average fast-charging site can cost up to $10 per kWh.

How does this compare to petrol costs?

By way of comparison, fuel economy is measured as litres used per 100 km, with the following table detailing the cost per 100km for last year’s top three selling vehicles (based on a price of $3 per l).

Car model l per 100km Cost per 100km
Mitsubishi Outlander 7.2l $21.60
Toyota RAV4 7.1l $21.30
Mitsubishi ASX 7.6l $22.80

The cost per 100km difference between EVs and petrol vehicles is stark. Taking the EV average from the above ($4.88) and the petrol vehicle average ($21.90), it works out to a difference of $17.02 per 100 km.

Based on a travel distance of 14,000 km per year, the above averages work out to total yearly costs of $683.20 for EVs and $3,066 for petrol vehicles. Over the course of the year, this is a difference of $2,382.80. Even if you were to assume that every charge you did was at a public fast-charging network (and you were paying $10 per 100km), that’s still a little under half of the estimated petrol costs above. And realistically speaking, most your charging should be done at home, anyway.

Of course, these figures serve as an initial guide. Real-world conditions could see more or less petrol or kWh being used. But it highlights the fact that fueling a car will almost certainly cost more than charging one. If you take advantage of EV power plans you could save even more on charging costs.

EV power plans

These types of plans typically employ a day/night tariff structure, allowing for EV charging at night (usually between 9pm and 7am) when electricity rates are cheaper. This means you can simply plug in your EV at night and wake up to a full charge. Running your household appliances during the cheaper night tariff hours can also help cut costs. Keep in mind that higher rates will apply during the day.

If you do employ this strategy, the estimated savings could be even greater than listed above.

For example, on Contact Energy’s Good Nights Plan, you get free power from 9pm-midnight, every night. So charging your electric car during these hours will be like having a free to use petrol pump in your own backyard! It can virtually eliminate fuelling costs (although the EA levy still applies on free power so there will still be some cost for the power being used).

This is just one of several EV power plans available, so to check out some other power plans for electric vehicles, click here.

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electric car charging on street

How long do electric car batteries last?

Another key consideration for potential EV buyers will be how long EV batteries last. As with all batteries, EV batteries have a set lifespan, degrading over time as they go through the cycle of being used, losing charge, and then being recharged.

Most new EVs have a battery warranty that guarantees the battery for a certain length of time or distance (for instance 5-8 years or 100,000 km).

The following table details the battery warranties for last year’s top three selling EVs:

Car model Warranty
Tesla Model 3 Battery and drive unit – eight years or 160,000km, whichever comes first
MG ZS EV Eight years/160,000km BEV battery warranty
Hyundai Kona EV Eight years/160,000km high-voltage battery warranty

It’s important to note that it’s unlikely your battery will hit the eight-year mark, see it’s warranty lapse, and then die. Battery replacements are, overall, rare. Rather, batteries gradually lose their capacity. It’s likely a replacement, if needed, will be due not to your battery dying, but to the battery capacity getting too low.

But with modern EVs having excellent range, that simply means eight years down the track you may have a 300km, not 400km range. Or you need to charge your car twice a week, not once. Even 70% or 80% battery capacity is probably plenty, and won’t warrant a battery change.

In fact a 2019 study by Geotab found EVs lose, on average, just 2.3% capacity annually. Assuming this, after eight years, your battery would still be operating at 81.6%. On a Tesla Model 3 with a staggering 491km range, that’s still a range of about 400km after eight years.

How much does it cost to replace an electric car battery?

There have been plenty of horror stories about battery replacement costs, with people spending tens of thousands to replace the battery in their car. And in the past, this has been somewhat true (if you were unlucky enough to have your battery die after the warranty lapsed).

And while there is no guarantee around battery replacement costs, what we do know is that the EV market is moving quickly and costs are coming down. And some countries already have battery recycling schemes, which reduce costs by offering trade-ins for old batteries in return for refurbished ones.

If you are concerned about the lifespan of an EV battery, there are proactive steps you can take to keep it in top shape.

The following steps can help to maintain capacity:

  • Only recharge when needed – for many owners this will be every few days
  • Limit extreme heat/cold exposure – in weather over 30°C, park and charge in the shade or in a garage. In freezing temperatures, follow manual battery care instructions
  • Fast charging – frequent fast charging may over time decrease battery capacity (depending on the EV model and climate). Refer to the manual/manufacturer for details
  • Servicing – should always be undertaken by a qualified technician
  • Storing – if you’re not planning on using your EV for a long time don’t store it with a fully charged battery. Refer to the manual battery care instructions.

What other benefits are there to an electric car?

Some of the key benefits to buying an electric car are:

  • 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 – 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

Should I choose a plug-in hybrid over an electric car?

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.

You may even just find an EV is out of your price range and a hybrid is your only option.

PHEVs 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.

Some things to consider about PHEVs are:

  • The price of a plug-in hybrid tends to be lower than that of an EV
  • 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


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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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