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Electric vehicles present opportunities for industry

Charging electric vehicle

Technologies in transport are changing rapidly, with electric vehicles set to sweep through the industry over the next five to ten years.

Organisations and governments around the world will need to understand the challenges and opportunities for electric vehicles to take advantage of this new wave of technology.

Blair Monk, Technical Director at Aurecon and ITS New Zealand Board Member, discusses electric vehicle uptake, policies and standards, as well as the opportunities for organisations to benefit from this growing industry.

How many electric vehicles are there?

Electric vehicles currently account for 0.06% of the total vehicle fleet globally. In the last three years we have seen a rapid increase in sales of electric vehicles, which are growing year on year at a rate of 300% (Figure 1).

Electric vehicle sales in the ‘000s
Figure 1: Electric vehicle sales in the ‘000s.

There are currently over 720 000 highway capable electric vehicles on the road around the world, with the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla S leading the way.

  • Norway has the highest penetration of electric vehicles with over 10% of their fleet running on electricity in 2014. Growth is expected to increase as battery technologies improve.
  • China’s BYD Ltd produces a large number of taxis and buses for the local and export market.
  • Jeju, an island in Korea, has a goal of having 100% electric vehicles by 2030. Fast charging is becoming more common place with over 2000 charger points expected to come online in Jeju by 2017.

What are the challenges?

In New Zealand, 80% of new cars are bought by fleet owners for employee travel. Fleet buyers want vehicles that are cheap to buy, will take sales people around all day, and are easily used by many people. Electric vehicles still have a NZD20 000 premium over the equivalent petrol powered car.

In other parts of the world, challenges for the industry include the size of available vehicles, lack of commercial vehicles, and lack of ways to tax people who use them.

What is being done to increase sales?

As a result of environmental lobbying and to a lesser extent other advocates, governments around the world are subsidising to the rollout of electric vehicles and the infrastructure that is required to support them.

Subsidies in most countries range from USD4000 to USD9000, with the highest being in Korea and Norway, where the subsidies are close to USD20 000 per vehicle.

In New Zealand, the government is encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles by removing fuel tax.

In other countries, tactics to increase sales have included subsidies, the use of bus lane, free parking, free charging, free road tolls, no GST on purchase, and low licencing fees.

Battery technologies

  • Lithium battery technology is where it is at.
  • Battery price and power density is getting better. Korea has eight universities researching better battery technology.
  • Lithium Ion batteries (LiMn2O4) used in the Nissan LEAF are similar to cell phone batteries and can give the LEAF a range of 175km. There is a newer Lithium Phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, which is more stable and can handle far more cycles of charging and discharging but is a slightly lower voltage, giving some vehicles a range of 300km.


  • The Telsa S is the only electric vehicle with a range greater than 300km. Plugin hybrid vehicles have a much better range, with a backup petrol engine that kicks in when the battery runs out.
  • The challenges for charging electric vehicles include location of the charge points and number of charge points. Fast charging can only occur at places where there is a substation.
  • All new builds should be prepared for this change in technology.
  • By installing charge points in carparks, organisations can attract ‘green’ clients.


With sales of electric vehicles expected to continue to increase over the coming years, organisations can realise the associated benefits through engaging Intelligent Transport Systems experts who are working to enhance infrastructure and operations to support electric and autonomous vehicles.

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