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10 May 2023 Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
There’s been a lot of talk this month about changes the Government is making to its Clean Car Discount programme from July 1 – specifically, how it’ll have a detrimental effect on buyers by taking rebates away from hybrids and increasing fees even further on higher-emitting vehicles.
It’s true and it’s happening for a simple reason: the programme has been too successful in encouraging people to buy cleaner (lower emission) cars, which means the Government has paid out more in rebates than it planned – and received less in fees than it expected.
The Discount, remember, is a “feebate” scheme that applies to all vehicles being registered for the first time in New Zealand (including used imports); the fines on thirstier vehicles are supposed to pay for the rebates on cleaner ones. Problem is, the books aren’t balancing.
The Government isn’t changing the fundamental way the Discount works. Rebates will still apply to models under a certain CO2 level, there’s still a “zero band” where cars don’t get a rebate or a fine, and increasing fees apply once those CO2 outputs go above a certain level.
But the Government is shifting the goalposts quite substantially, to ensure that it will pay less in rebates and potentially collect more in fines – at least to keep the scheme fiscally neutral, like it was always supposed to be.
Until July 1, used imports that emit up to 146g/km will get a rebate up to a maximum of $3450, those in between 147-192g/km do not receive a rebate or a fine and those above 192g/km incur fines on a sliding scale up to $2875.
From July 1, used imports will only get a rebate if they emit 100g/km or lower, up to a maximum of $3507.50. Vehicles emitting 101-149g/km will not receive a rebate or a fine, and those above 149g/km will have to pay fines up to a maximum of $3450.
2012 Toyota Prius Hyrbid
That’s lot of numbers to take in, but what do they really mean for those buying a car? Take the Toyota Prius hybrid for example. Few family cars are as frugal in day-to-day driving.
A typical 2009-model Prius emits 117g/km of CO2, according to the Government’s 3P-WLTP test (process for assessing a vehicle's emissions and fuel consumption). A newly registered Toyota Prius used import for example will gain its buyer $1037 cash back under the current Clean Car rules, because it’s well under that 146g/km cap. But from July 1 that same Prius falls out of the rebate band, because it’s over 100g/km. It’ll be in the zero band – no rebate, no fee.
You can see that if a model as frugal as a Prius can’t gain a rebate after July 1, there’s not much hope for other hybrids. The new rules effectively eliminate rebates for petrol-electric cars, and in most cases the best you can hope for is to score a vehicle in the zero band.
Nissan Note Hybrid
There are still a very few ultra-frugal hybrids that will qualify for cash back from July. The Nissan Note hybrid is a popular used model in NZ and the 85g/km of a typical 2014 model currently gets a $1697.24 rebate; even under the new rules, it still qualifies for $1293.75.
But really, most used-import rebates will be reserved for the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Because PHEVs have very low official fuel economy figures (a full battery charge is part of the test), most will still qualify for money back. A 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (42g/km) currently qualifies for a $2300 rebate (42g/km). Even after the July 1 rule change, buyers of that same car will still get $2012.50.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
Many popular “regular” petrol or diesel cars will become more expensive, with higher fines having to paid at the time of registration.
For example, a 2013 Nissan X-Trail diesel (204g/km) currently attracts a fee of $776.25, but that will rise to $1840 from July. A used Nissan Murano, with its powerful petrol V6 engine (232g/km), currently attracts a fee of $1983.75; but from July that will rise to $2642.
Even mainstream family cars will feel the pinch. A 2013 1.5-litre petrol Mazda Axela hatchback (135g/km) will get you a $666.21 rebate right now, but it will lose that after July 1 (albeit sit safe, only just, in the neutral band).
A 2015 Mazda Axela diesel is currently in the zero band, but after July it will attract a $431.25 fee.
Regardless of the Clean Car situation, a used Toyota Prius or Nissan Note hybrid remain great eco-cars that offer legendary reliability and will save you an enormous amount in running costs thanks to their extreme thrift.
A car with great qualities will always be a car with great qualities. But it goes without saying that there will never be a better time to buy a new-to-NZ used import Hybrid than in May and June 2023.