New data from Waka Kotahi shows the impact of the Government’s clean car programme, with electric vehicles almost doubling their share of new car sales so far this year.

Nationally, the average light vehicle – that’s a passenger car, an SUV, a ute or a van – sold in the year to July emits 9 percent less carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled than the average light vehicle sold in 2019. 

This represents a significant improvement in an area where progress has historically been stubbornly slow. But, internationally, we’re still lagging behind. The average CO2 emissions from the light vehicles sold this year are still 5 percent above the average emissions of vans and utes sold in the European Union in 2020.

The Government’s Clean Car Standard is aimed at capping the emissions of imported vehicle fleets. From next year, an importer’s car and SUV fleet will need to have average CO2 emissions no greater than 145 grams per kilometre. Light commercial vehicles – vans and utes – will have their average emissions capped at 218.3 g/km.

In order to catch up to the rest of the developed world, figures released by the Ministry of Transport show, that standard sets a steep sinking lid on allowable emissions from imported vehicles over the next few years.

Alongside limiting the polluting power of vehicles entering the country, the Government has also launched its Clean Car Discount to subsidise hybrids and electric vehicles while making it more expense to buy the highest emitting light vehicles.

Last year, battery electrics and plug-in hybrids collectively made up just 5.9 percent of light vehicles sold. In the year to July, the Waka Kotahi data shows, they represented 10.7 percent of sales. That’s also more than five times the share they held in 2019.

The figures, supplied by Newsroom’s content partner Hyundai, also allow for a look under the hood of the auto market to see which companies are selling the cleanest fleets.

Of the top 18 brands sold so far this year, Honda’s fleet was the cleanest on average, at 132 g/km. That’s despite the Japanese automaker selling no true electric vehicles. Instead, its petrol vehicles are relatively fuel efficient and it has benefitted from sales of its hybrid Jazz hatchback.

Second place goes to Hyundai, with 135 g/km. Hyundai’s fleet emissions have also fallen the most since 2019, down from 193 g/km that year. 

Hyundai has sold 1033 battery electrics in New Zealand this year or one fifth of the electric vehicles sold in that time. That’s second only to Tesla.

The hybrid award goes to Toyota, which supplied more than half of the petrol hybrids sold in the year to May. Across its fleet, however, Toyota’s emissions were slightly above average, due in part to the popularity of its high-emitting Hilux utes.

A reliance on utes, which currently have no cleaner alternatives for purchase in New Zealand, also drove up the emissions of Isuzu and Ford. Those two companies topped the emissions list this year.

This story is part of a content partnership with Hyundai.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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