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Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles Accelerating Electric Revolution

Plug-in Hybrid vehicles are accelerating the electric vehicle revolution

Plug-in Hybrids are an ideal electric vehicle option for New Zealanders with just one car in the family and a need to regularly travel long distances or tow loads. This is the finding of this month’s survey by ‘Flip the Fleet’, a citizen science collaboration of over 420 EV owners who have signed up to share data from their cars’ dashboards each month.

“Most New Zealand electric vehicle owners see plug-in hybrids as a useful step in the right direction” says Kathryn Trounson, the Chairperson of the Better New Zealand Trust and a participant in the Flip the Fleet citizen science collaboration. Kathryn drives an Electric Vehicle that has a ‘range extender’ - a small on-board, petrol-powered, generator that charges the car’s main battery while on the move. “This gives me the best of both worlds because I can do most of my driving from electricity that I upload from home, but I have the back-up for occasional longer trips. Over the two and a half years that I have had my car, I have used only 9 litres of fuel for the range extender”.

Ninety-four percent of the Plug-in Hybrid owners surveyed agreed that their cars are contributing an important step towards low emission transport in New Zealand. The majority (61%) of “pure electric vehicle” owners agree, but some (22%) are more sceptical. This latter group points out that Plug-in Hybrids are potentially less environmentally friendly, particularly if they tend to be run on petrol for a lot of the time. However, the Flip the Fleet data so far shows very little difference in trip distances of the hybrids and pure EVs. And nearly everyone agrees that the Plug-in Hybrids will attract more people, and a greater variety of people to buy low-emission vehicles earlier than if only pure electric vehicles were available. The hybrid choice overcomes the range anxiety of some prospective purchasers, whether that be a real or imagined problem. Some of the critics reckoned that the hybrids will be “gone in the blink of an eye” and don’t fully capture the economic benefits of a pure electric vehicle. For them the range constraints of an inexpensive electric vehicle are not important or will soon disappear as more fast chargers are installed and rapid improvements in battery extend the range of cars.

“What matters most is what you are replacing when you buy a Plug-in Hybrid. If you really need that bigger car for longer journeys, you’ll still reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money in your local trips between times. And you would probably have been using a gas guzzler for the longer trips anyway” said Kathryn. “But if the current pure electric vehicles range is sufficient for your needs, we recommend you buy them rather than spending the extra on a plug-in hybrid”.

The average trip distance (away and back to base) of all the pure electric vehicles contributing to the Flip the Fleet database is 53 km, well within the range of even the cheapest electric vehicles.

One of the issues raised in this month’s survey is the comparative lack of pure electric vehicle models for sale new in New Zealand so far. In the second quarter of this year, around half the new ‘low emission vehicles’ sold were plug-in hybrids rather than pure electric vehicles. However nearly ten times as many second-hand pure electric vehicles were registered than were second-hand hybrids.

“This is partly because New Zealanders can score off the subsidies paid in Japan and Europe for electric vehicles that are then on-sold second-hand in New Zealand. But we look forward to having more pure electric vehicle options for sale new on our forecourts in the near future so that people can choose the best option, be it a plug-in hybrid or a pure electric vehicle model, that meets their individual need” said Kathryn.

Flip the Fleet is a citizen science project that provides scientifically reliable information on the benefits and constraints of electric vehicles in New Zealand. The project is partly funded by MBIE’s Curious Minds portfolio, through Otago Museum.

Participation is free and all New Zealand’s electric vehicle owners can enrol at


More information:

A full record of the respondents’ comments and more detailed analysis is available at

A pie diagram to illustrate the recent low-emission vehicle registrations is provided at the bottom of this release.

The Flip the Fleet project is described at:

Contacts for more statements:

Kathryn Trounson, Chairperson of the Better NZ Trust and a Flip the Fleet contributor; 022 174 9110;

Dima Ivanov, PowerStats Ltd.; and cofounder of Flip the Fleet; 021 927 346;

Henrik Moller, Prof Emeritus, Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago; and cofounder of Flip the Fleet – 027 2268 688 -

Flip the Fleet has members spread throughout New Zealand. We list the contact details of some local contributors below in case you want to get a local perspective for your story. If no one is listed from your region, please ring 027 2268688 or Email so we can find a local member to speak to you.

Northland: Joe Camuso • • 027 4384639

Waikato: Justin Boyd • • 022 3427 044

Manawatu: Andrew Hill • • 021 575 758

Wellington: Donald Love • • 021 132 8213

Nelson: Yuki Fukuda • • 027 390 3951

Christchurch: Mark Nixon • • 021 253 9252

Timaru: Martin Kane • • 021 327 755

Dunedin: Alan Wilden • • 021 1452 682

Pam McKinlay • • 027 4739 127

Wanaka: Morgan Knoesen • • 022 566 3736

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