The cost of living: electric car owners in pole position in the face of soaring fuel prices
While most motorists are in despair as fuel prices hit an all-time high, Stephen Hobo-Tuck is one car owner whose wallet won’t take too much of a hit.
For the man from New Plymouth, “refueling” means recharging his 2015 Nissan Leaf with electricity.
“I plug the car in, in the garage every night, and it fills up with gas in the morning,” he said.
”The reason I bought it was for a business car in town, but I’ve been as far as Wellington. I’ve been to Taupo and Whangamomona.”
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Hobo-Tuck’s investment in its electric car is paying off more than ever.
Gasoline prices crossed the $3 mark in much of the country last week and are expected to continue to rise as the fallout from sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine grows stronger.
Combined with record inflation, there is little relief in sight for most motorists, with fears it could even rise to $4 a litre.
Fuel costs are also expected to drive increases in food and retail prices as business owners pass on higher transportation costs.
Those hoping to avoid price hikes by trading in their gas-powered car for an electric one might already be too late to cash in.
An Auckland woman struggling with high fuel prices is considering changing her daughter’s school as a result.
After Friday’s announcement of fuel price hikes, electric vehicles on Trade Me rose about $2,000, Hobo-Tuck said.
“People suddenly realized they could get more for their car because it became a lot more reasonable to have that to drive. And they’re not destroying the environment,” he said.
Demand for vehicles is growing everywhere, not just in New Zealand.
Hobo-Tuck said Canadian, South African and Australian car dealerships all bid for the same electric cars from Japan, and those dealerships have much bigger pockets than their New Zealand counterparts.
“I had a friend who was bidding on 20 cars, he got one,” he said.
Car importer Greg Davis, owner of Wholesale Direct Importers in New Plymouth, says the buzz around electric is getting so strong he may have to start selling e-bikes as well as e-cars.
Even before fuel prices rose, Davis, known as Ozy, said he was selling more hybrid vehicles, those capable of using both gasoline and electricity.
”I sold one yesterday (Friday) to a guy who was 85 years old. I had more questions about hybrids. They are a good way to go.”
Some entry-level hybrids cost around $15 a week for gas, he said.
”Taxis have been using hybrids for 10 years, they have proven themselves.”
The record fuel prices come just weeks after the Taranaki Regional Council simplified the area’s bus fare structure, making public transport more affordable.
There is now a flat rate for all passengers traveling within a single zone, with an additional $1 for each border crossed, said Sarah Hiestand, Taranaki Regional Council’s transport engagement manager.
”This means a one-way trip anywhere in New Plymouth (including Bell Block and Egmont Village) is just $2 and a trip from Hāwera to New Plymouth is just $5, with a Bee Card . ”
And despite the increase in fuel prices, the regional council does not plan to review the tariff structure.
But replacing every car ride with a bus ride would be impossible in Taranaki, said Suraya Sidhu Singh, who runs the “I Love Public Transport, Taranaki” Facebook page.
She wouldn’t even describe Taranaki’s public transportation as a “skeleton service.”
”It’s less than that. It is 7:30 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. Monday to Friday, and two circular buses run twice on Saturdays.”
This means “realistically” that it would not be possible to replace every car journey with a bus journey, she said.
The new $2 fares are a “great evolution, as they are simpler and cheaper for a large number of users, especially those traveling further afield”.
A lower child fare, perhaps $1, would make it more affordable for families currently driving children to school, as it’s cheaper than the bus, she said.
Sidhu-Singh said research had found that public transport users had much better mental health than motorists – they scored twice on mental wellbeing tests.
“It’s called bus hum – not sure what’s causing it.”