Let’s Go Green | Renting and Driving an Electric Car in NZ

If you’re considering hiring an electric car in New Zealand, or perhaps even looking to buy one, our guide will help you with all the information you could possibly need.

Road-tripping in New Zealand is great – it’s our favourite way to see the country.

Aotearoa is incredibly car friendly; our roads are good, public transport is limited, and you’ll need your own wheels to see the hidden gems that make NZ so amazing.

As amazing as seeing the country by car is, we think using an electric car is even better. There is no greater joy than having the trip of a lifetime, safe in the knowledge that you’re taking good care of nature as you go.

Our love for the environment has recently ramped up the growth of EVs and electric charging stations across the country.

So, if you’re like us, and love to travel more, with less of a carbon footprint, read on and learn about electric cars in New Zealand.

We’ll help you plan your next excursion behind the wheel of an EV!

An EV car being charged.

The Ultimate Guide to Renting and Driving an Electric Car in New Zealand

Electric, PHEV and Hybrid – What’s the difference?

Generally, we classify electric vehicles into three types:

  • electric (EV)
  • plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)
  • hybrid.

Each car operates in a significantly different manner, so it’s important to understand what you’re hiring in advance.

Electric cars and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles need charging. Hybrid cars do not, but they require you to top-up gasoline.

Knowing the difference between these electric vehicles lets you plan ahead on your next journey.

Electric Vehicles (EV) – Full electric

Electric cars have huge batteries and electric motors that power your automobile without the use of petrol. If you want to be as green as possible, this is the car for you.

It will, however, require charging whenever you run the battery flat.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) – Electric with combustion

PHEVs sit squarely in between EVs and hybrids. They have gasoline-powered engines and also larger EV batteries that require charging (like an EV).

PHEV vehicles use stored electric energy to power the car as a priority and use gasoline as a backup.

Hybrid Vehicles – Combustion with electric

The third type of electric vehicle that you can find in car rental services around New Zealand is the hybrid. These cars also run on a mix of gasoline and electricity.

Their gasoline-powered internal combustion engine does the heavy lifting (particularly on longer drives), while their small battery gets charged using regenerative braking, giving an environmentally friendly boost to your driving experience.

You won’t need to plug a hybrid in to be charged; in fact, you’re unable to do so… they do all their charging as you drive.

A car driving on a road in New Zealand, past a kiwi road sign.
NATIONAL PARK, NZ – NOV 25 2014: Car drive through Tongariro National Park. About 1M people visit the park every year, doing hiking and climbing in summer, and skiing and snowboarding in winter.

Hiring an electric car in New Zealand

New Zealand has seen significant growth in the number of electric vehicles on the road and in growing infrastructure.

Now, many car rental services offer a wide range of EVs to choose from. Take your pick from:

  • Avis – NZ’s largest electric car rental company. They have almost one hundred electric vehicles in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
  • Snap Rentals – a company committed to full EV/HEV by 2025
  • Go Rentals – offering Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y if you want to be fancy!
  • Europcar – providing brand new rental cars with no hidden charges
  • Scotties – hire a reliable Toyota Prius hybrid
  • Hertz – with hybrid Toyota and Lexus cars.

Many of these companies are based close to major cities and airports, making it easy to hire a car and hit the road.

Though an EV may cost more to hire, you will save significant money on fuel – plus, you’ll know you’re earning brownie points by looking after our clean, green environment!

Hiring an EV, PHEV or hybrid is also a great opportunity to try the technology out before purchasing one at home.

Check how much it will cost to hire an EV for your next New Zealand trip [choose fully electric or hybrid].

Pro Tip: When hiring your electric vehicle, ask if it comes with a charging cable. You’ll need one of these if you plan to use the complimentary slow chargers found around New Zealand.

How to find charging stations in NZ

If you’re planning to drive or hire an EV or PHEV in NZ, finding charging stations will no doubt be your top consideration.

Fortnuately, there are approximately 400 public charging stations for electric vehicles scattered across the country.

Though a bulk of these charging points are located near the big cities (like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch), you will still find many in smaller towns and near state highways.

This article is largely aimed at people renting EVs and PHEVs in New Zealand. If you’re planning to hire a hybrid, you won’t need to plug in.

Charge your EV or PHEV around town

There are several apps designed to help you find electric charging stations.

ChargeNet – Providing fast and hyperfast charging

With over 280 fast-charging and hyperfast-changing stations placed strategically across the country, ChargeNet is one of the largest providers in NZ.

To use one of their stations, simply use their app or QR code.

Alternatively, you can order a pay-as-you-go fob to keep on your keyring once you’ve signed up for an account.

However you choose to access your account, you will only be charged for the amount of electricity you use.

What is the difference between a fast and hyperfast-charging station?

All EVs and PHEVs can use fast-charging stations. These take up to 30 minutes to charge an EV battery to 80% full.

High-end EVs (like Tesla, Polestar and some newer Hyundai and Kia cars) can use hyperfast chargers. These deliver a full charge in only 15 minutes!

Plugshare – Find an EV charger

Plugshare is the main app and website used to find EV chargers in New Zealand (and abroad). It is free to use and frequently updated.

We suggest planning long-distance travel in advance using their map to ensure you’re not caught short.

Some of these chargers are free, others are paid. As a general rule, slower chargers are often free of charge (and require you to have your own charging cable), whereas fast and hyperfast chargers require a payment.

NZTA

The NZTA also keep an up to date list of the different charging stations around New Zealand.

Two EV charging parks in New Zealand.
A charging station outside a supermarket. Photo: Mattinbgn.

I love the fact that I can use a car without feeling guilty about emissions (especially since almost all of NZ’s electricity is ‘clean’ – hydro, solar, wind, or geothermal). I’ll never go back to driving an ICE (internal combustion engine) car.

Terri Hygate – NZTT member

Book hotels and accommodation with charging facilities

If you’ve hired or are driving an electric car or PHEV around New Zealand, you’ll want to charge it overnight at your accommodation.

Conveniently, Booking.com have a filter that allows you to easily see which accommodation offers this service. Simply click the ‘electric vehicle charging station’ box found on the left hand side, under ‘facilities’.

How to book accommodation with electric car charging.
You’ll find the filter for ‘electric vehicle charging station’s under the facilities section of Booking.com.

Did you know? We use kilometres in New Zealand – not miles. If you need a hand converting into miles, use an online calculator.

Helpful Tips for first-time EV Drivers

To help you on your way, we’ve compiled some helpful tips to ensure your first time hiring or driving an EV won’t be your last.

  • When using a public charging station, repark your car when charging is complete – please don’t park it and then go shopping for hours.
  • Air conditioning will run your battery down faster – turn it off when you don’t need it.
  • Have an idea of where you might charge your car. Book accommodation that will let you charge up overnight and try to schedule sharing stops in convenient locations.
  • Keep an eye out for free charging stations. Supermarkets, shopping centres and The Warehouse often provide these. Remember though, these will be slow chargers so they’re best suited as a top-up on long trips. You’ll also generally have to provide your own charging cable.

Save the Environment and your Pocket

As previously discussed, driving an electric car has positive impacts for the environment. Pure EVs don’t emit carbon dioxide or other air pollutants into the environment which is just amazing!

Charging an electric car at home (or at a hotel if they pass on the true cost) costs around $3 per 100km. This is equivalent to paying $0.30 for a litre of petrol. How amazing!

If using rapid charging networks across the country, the cost of electricity can go up to $10 per 100km but your charge will take significantly less time.

To put this cost into perspective, travelling from Auckland to Queenstown will see you drive approximately 1,550km. If paying for fuel (at $2.60/litre), you’ll have a bill of about $400.

This same distance in an EV would only cost $46.50 if charging at home or $155 using fast chargers.

As you can see, EVs offer amazing bang for your buck when driving around Aotearoa!

Silver car with an electric charging port.
Electric car (EVs) battery being charged.

FAQ about Driving and Hiring an EV in New Zealand

Where can I find charging stations in New Zealand?

You can find a list of the different charging stations via the NZTA. This list clearly states whether a station is free or paid.

Are EV charging stations free in NZ?

Some charging stations are free in New Zealand, while others are not. Rapid charging stations typically require payment, but standard chargers (that take several hours) are normally free to use.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car in New Zealand?

The cost to charge an electric car depends on the charging station you use.

A rapid charger (which fills a battery from empty to 80% in 20-30 minutes) costs approximately $10 for every 100km of use.

Publically available standard chargers are generally available at no cost, but they are designed to top up a battery part way through a journey, not to fill one completely. This is because it takes approximately 8 hours to do so.

How long does it take to charge an electric car in NZ?

A rapid charger will top a battery up to 80% in approximately 20-30 minutes, and will have it fully charged in about an hour. A conventional slow charger takes approximately 8 hours (so is perfect to use overnight).

Do you save money with an electric car?

Yes, it is cheaper to drive an electric car than a traditional petrol vehicle – especially if you are renting one and don’t need to consider the initial outlay.

Can I leave my EV on while charging?

You are able able to use your EV while it is charging. We recommend you use the charging time as an excuse to stretch your legs but if you want to relax in your seat while listening to music or charging your phone, go straight ahead.

What is the downside to electric cars?

There are some disadvantages to driving an EV car. These include difficulties finding a charging station, charging times and limited driving ranges.

Though there is a learning curve when it comes to EVs, we think the overall benefits are clear. Plus, by driving clean and green, you’ll be making a real difference to Mother Nature, and who doesn’t want that?

Have fun, roam around the country, explore our islands and enjoy our beautiful attractions knowing that you are having a positive impact on our environment thanks to your decision to hire an electric vehicle.

Additional information contributed by Terri Hygate from NZTT.

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