As Nissan Gives Up On New Zealand Electric Car Market, Renault Readies Triple NZ Launch For ZOE, Kangoo Z.E., Twizy

As manufacturer of the world’s current number one electric vehicle, Japanese automaker Nissan knows a lot about making and selling the Nissan LEAF. Since its launch in late 2010, more than 200,000 Nissan LEAFs have been sold worldwide across five continents, and while 90,000 of those sales have been in U.S., 50,000 have been in Japan and 40,000 have been in Europe, there are plenty of other places in the world where you’ll bump into a Nissan LEAF.

So when Nissan announced last November that it was halting LEAF sales in New Zealand due to a lack of government support and buyer interest — not to mention an unfavorable exchange rate which gave the entry-level car a sticker price in excess of $40,000 NZ ($28,000) — you’d be forgiven for feeling a little disappointed at the Japanese firm. Indeed, with the Nissan no-longer on sale, the only affordable brand-new plug-in car for New Zealanders for the past six months or more has been the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, a car with at best 20-miles of all-electric range.

Kiwis will soon be able to explore their beautiful homeland in the Renault ZOE. (infrastructure permitting)

Kiwis will soon be able to explore their beautiful homeland in the Renault ZOE. (infrastructure permitting)

That or a grey-market used Nissan LEAF from Japan, because the only other options were the $83,500NZ BMW i3 or even more expensive Tesla Model S.

But while Nissan has turned its back on the island nation, its alliance partner Renault is embracing the potential of a New Zealand electric vehicle market with open arms. With plans to help the nation fall in love with electric cars, Renault is launching not one but three of its electric cars there.

Later this year, the Renault ZOE will be joined by Renault Kangoo and Twizy (but not Fluence).

Later this year, the Renault ZOE will be joined by Renault Kangoo and Twizy (but not Fluence).

Unveiled on Friday last week in Wellington, Renault’s trio of electric cars — the Renault ZOE hatchback, Renault Twizy runabout and Renault Kangoo Z.E. van — will launch in the coming months across the nation, once again bringing more affordable electric car choices to New Zealand.

As details, the five-seat ZOE comes first, going on sale in July priced from $65,208 NZ ($45,500 U.S.). GST (goods and services tax of 15 percent) is liable in most cases, adding an additional $9,781.20 to the sticker price. And while that means you’ll be looking at a bill of $74,989.20 NZ ($53,320 U.S.) to buy a Renault ZOE (far more than you’d pay in Europe for an equivalent car) it’s still far cheaper than the BMW i3, which retails for an eye watering $96,025 NZ ($67,000 U.S.) with GST added.

It’s worth noting however that Renault NZ’s pricing includes the price of the ZOE’s 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery at point of purchase, which is different to Renault’s preferred sales method in Europe. There, most customers buy the car outright but lease the battery. While that does bring initial outlay down, it means owners who opt for a ZOE will need to continue making monthly lease payments (tiered based on annual mileage) to ensure their cars keep working.

Later on this year, the ZOE will be joined by the Kangoo ZE van and Twizy city runabout. Although prices have yet to be announced, we’d guess they’re going to be similarly expensive, as New Zealand does not yet have any meaningful electric car incentives designed to make plug-in cars more affordable.

While we’ve no personal experience with New Zealand or its green car reputation, we know someone who does: Transport Evolved regular Gavin ‘KiwiEV’ Shoebridge, who shot to YouTube fame nearly a decade ago with his series of electric car conversion videos. A Kiwi by birth, Gavin now lives in Bratislava, Slovakia and owns a Peugeot iOn electric car, but still keeps in touch with the electric car world in his home country.

“Considering the recent, bizarre departure of the Nissan LEAF, and the lack of government support for electric car adopters in New Zealand, the country needs every electric car it can get its hands on,” he told us via email earlier today. “This means Renault’s electric fleet arrival can only be a good thing. It better happen soon though, lest the country loses its quickly wilting clean & green image.”

Renault will have a tough time though with zero help from the NZ government.

Renault will have a tough time though with zero help from the NZ government.

With such a beautiful landscape to protect, we hope that Gavin’s fellow countrymen agree. Given the high sticker prices involved however, we think Renault may be facing an uphill battle unless the New Zealand Government lends a helping hand.

Would you pay so much money for a Renault ZOE? Should Renault be applauded for attempting to pick up where Nissan failed? And just how do you convince car buyers in a nation with no electric car incentives that it’s worth spending a lot of extra cash for a car that has no emissions?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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