31 March 2022

Rebates for cleaner cars, penalties for gas guzzlers from 1 April

Will you get cash back or a face a fee?

As an incentive to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint, if you buy a new low-emission vehicle (electric or hybrid) from Friday 1 April, you may be eligible for a discount that will put cash back in your pocket. We're talking up to $8,625 cashback if you buy a new EV, while a used import tops out at a potential $3,450 rebate.

On the other side of the pendulum, if you buy a new high-emission, gas-guzzling vehicle, expect to pay a penalty of a few thousand.

This comes as changes to the government’s Clean Car Emissions Scheme kick off on 1 April 2022. The idea is to encourage the switch to low-emission vehicles as New Zealand strives to be carbon neutral by 2050.

With high fuel prices, some consumers don’t need much convincing. Our recent survey showed that a third of people were already thinking of making the switch to hybrid or electric vehicles.

How it works

There’s no set rebate rate or fee

Different vehicle models have different emission rates. All rebates and fees will be based on a sliding scale of CO2 emissions.

If you’re looking at buying your next car, head to Rightcar NZ - Vehicle ratings to check what you might end up saving or paying. Drive Electric, a not-for-profit which promotes the benefits of EVs, has a similar tool where you can search EV types and see how much of a rebate different models would get you.

Gen Less also has a calculator freely available that helps you run some of the costs of car ownership based on your unique situation.

Vehicle requirements

A rebate is payable for an eligible vehicle only if the following criteria have been met:

  • The vehicle must have been registered for the first time in New Zealand from 1 April 2022.

  • The vehicle must have a safety rating of 3 stars or more on the Rightcar website at the time of registration.

  • The vehicle must have been purchased for less than NZ$80,000, including GST and on-road costs (the purchase price).

  • It needs to be a zero-emission or low-emission vehicle.


The first time a vehicle is registered in New Zealand, whether it is brand new or a used import, is when you’re eligible to receive the rebate or will have to pay the fee, depending on whether the car is low or high emission.

You can only get one rebate or will have to pay one fee, per vehicle.

How to apply for a rebate

You won’t automatically get the discount when you drive off the lot in your brand-new car. Go to this website to apply for the rebate, otherwise you won’t receive it.

Who really benefits from this?

The scheme is a step in the right direction for a future-thinking, cleaner, greener New Zealand, but do these steps result only in the well-off getting discounts and the rest of us being penalised?

EVs and hybrids come with hefty price tags. The cheapest EV available in New Zealand right now is the MG ZS EV at $48,990, while one of the most expensive will set you back $366,900. A used import can qualify for a rebate and will cost far less, the cheapest being around $15,000.

Yet for many, even with the discount (which can be thousands of dollars depending on the vehicle model) it won’t offset the upfront high cost – despite being proven to save owners more in the long run. Petrol models remain the most affordable upfront option for many.

Most EV drivers save more than $2000 per year in petrol bills. So, now’s the time to make the most of a low-emission vehicle – if you can afford it.

Member comments

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Lance T.
04 Apr 2022
Imported Hybrids

I have noticed that a number of yards stocking imported used hybrids are increasing the price of their stock of eligible vehicles so the dealer effectively pockets the rebate.

James C.
03 Apr 2022
Unconvinced of sustainability of electric

Conveniently the Governments never talk in detail offering a balanced perspective.
The amount of rare-earths needed to product electric vehicles seems unsustainable and the damage done to earth in extracting and processing rare-earths is eye-opening (see the largest rare-earth extraction and processing operation in northern China's Inner Mongolia region). Search or see https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth. That would churn the stomach of the hardest hard-core electric vehicle fan.

And the lithium batteries - it seems the world would need 50-60 mega scale lithium battery plants to supply 50 million electric vehicles with batteries based on current technology using thousands of separate AA batteries that go into the car batteries. Where is all that lithium going to come from on a sustainable bases?

Perhaps we just need to sequester more carbon back into the earth to make reliable old oil sustainable - as is happening at some US oil fields. Just saying!

Steven P.
02 Apr 2022
EV is ready now. Hydrogen has huge drawbacks.

Hydrogen has only one plus, fast refueling.

But that's going out the window with the latest cars with 800V charging capable of recharging 10%-80% in 18 minutes. NZ has 3 Hyper-Rapid charging stations up and running and 9 more under construction.

However, the reality for most EV owners (me since 2017) is I do 99.9% of my charging at home, overnight, which effectively takes zero minutes and doesn't involve a special trip to a gas station. It literally takes me no time, I get home, I plug in, the next day it's full!

*** Hydrogen drawbacks ***

1. Green Hydrogen is a myth. Water just doesn't easily separate into Hydrogen and Oxygen and it takes a lot of energy to do that. Far more energy that using that same electricity to simply put it into an EV battery.
Plus, you then need to massively compress the Hydrogen gas into a liquid (lots more electricity), cart Hydrogen around the country to refueling stations (more energy) and finally a pump at the fueling station to the car.
Lastly, the efficiency is very poor, about only 45% of the energy from the hydrogen actually ends up moving the car, the other 55% is lost as heat, etc.
An EV is nearly 80% efficient.

2. The super expensive, super strong hydrogen storage tank.
It needs to be super strong to withstand the huge pressure of 35 MPa or even 70Mpa for some tanks. Plus it needs to stand up to car crash and not explode like a huge bomb. This makes the tanks very expensive.

3. Hydrogen embrittlement - the tanks and fuel lines are not going to last.
Hydrogen atoms are so small and because they are stored under great pressure they essentially corrode (if you will) everything, the tank, the metal fuel hoses, etc, the lot. Look it up, it's really a big problem.

02 Apr 2022
What about RUCs?

Why is there no mention made (by Government or new vehicle sellers) of Road User Charges (RUCs) that will in due course be applied to EVs? Starting when? At what $/km rate? Don't let's kid ourselves - they will be introduced for EVs.

B A S.
02 Apr 2022
How much petrol and registration

would $60,000 buy? As EVs consume electricity when charging what is in store for us when thousands of car owners plug in after 5pm and there are power cuts as a result. Folks, the government has canned any further power stations so we have a finite source of electricity. Now where have I heard that phrase before about unintended consequences?

Colin & Juliet M.
02 Apr 2022
EVs are charged off-peak

Nearly all EV owners find a retail electricity plan which incentivises late-night charging when electricity is cheaper. EVs can be plugged in earlier ready for scheduled charging to start late at night. Go to sleep, wake up with a full tank - can't do that with your petrol car!

Peter T.
02 Apr 2022
Why I'm NOT enthusiastc about EV!!

I'm waiting for HYDROGEN to become available ,for numerous reasons. NO batteries to dispose off, much quicker refuelling times (I have NO patience for refuels taking more than 10 minutes, a bit like refuelling the old LPG vehicles. A hydrogen car is an EV but more quicker to replenish.

Craig S.
02 Apr 2022
You'll wait forever

Hydrogen is never going to be a thing for cars. Trucks and trains maybe.

As an EV owner 99% of my charging is done at home overnight. I get back all the time that I'd have spent filling a petrol car at a station. When on a road trip, it's a relatively quick 15 - 20 minute stop which is a great time for refreshments and a toilet break.

Paul M.
02 Apr 2022
Myopic thinking

In my view the narrative that rebates benefit the wealthy is short term thinking.
1) the reduction in price increases the number of buyers who will consider purchasing an EV
2) people that buy new cars don't keep them forever so this helps seed a second hand market for nz new evs
3) the clean car discount applies to imported second hand vehicles. I understand the leaf is become very popular
4) the human species is looking down the barrel of extinction. Complaining you are being penalized because you lack the means to contribute in one specific way to helping reduce the risk of premature death of your children and grandchildren seems unhelpful.

02 Apr 2022


Steven R.
02 Apr 2022
Adriaan, please don't shout

I read the first line and then stopped, it's harder to read all upper-case. Re-post using normal sentence case and I'll read it all.

Batteries that are no longer any good for cars still have 50-60% capacity and are fine for stationary storage such as for solar power.
Also mostly-recyclable batteries are nearly here, but they don't yet have the capacity for a long-range car.

Michelle G.
02 Apr 2022
Yes it does benefit the well-off.

1. Most people can't afford to buy a new car, even at the discounted rate. What the discounted rate means is that people who were thinking about buying a petrol car that already costs the discounted rate are now more likely (possibly) to buy an electric car instead.

2) there is little evidence of how well EVs hold their value as second-hand cars. The purchasing incentive seems to apply only to the first purchase of the vehicle.

3) very popular with whom? Lower income families?

4) This is scaremongering. Most of the problems are caused by goods manufacturing by companies, not by consumers. If people are that worried about the effects of transport emissions on global warming, put high taxes on all private vehicles and heavily subsidise public transport.

This is another transfer of wealth from lower-income and lower-middle income families to middle-income and higher families. These people can afford the cost of electric vehicles without applying subsidies.

David H.
04 Apr 2022
Eventually the batteries will be dead

Steven R, eventually the batteries will be completely exhausted? I have heard a lot of experts say that once an EV car has it battery replaced it can be used for house batteries etc. But the question is (& to my knowledge a responsible answer hasn't been given yet) what happens to the batteries when they have no more capacity?

Fiona A.
02 Apr 2022
Honda Jazz hybrid

We are purchasing a new Honda Jazz hybrid. We had been considering it anyway as our current Jazz is 6 years old, and with the increase in fuel costs, now seemed a good time. The rebate has been the cherry on the top for us. In saying this, I acknowledge our privilege in having the ability to buy new cars and upgrade.
What I am hopeful for is that the cost of non rebate eligible cars comes down as a result. This would mean the ability to buy a more reliable and fuel efficient car may be within reach for many.

Peter I.
02 Apr 2022
Why would non-rebate cars come down in price?

The fact is that prior to Apr 1st, used Japanese imports have been a major source of good quality cars for lower budgets (say, sub $10,000). If a family needs a people mover or even a small van the only options, necessarily by size and age, have higher C02 outputs meaning they attract a fee. In the case of something like a Delica, Estima or Alphard the fee adds approximately $3000 on to the price. $3000 on to a vehicle that may have cost $7000. This fee is the same no matter the price of the vehicle. What has happened (and will continue) is that the pool of cheaper vehicles has shrunk overnight. The lower income households, with the click of the calendar and a beaurocrats keyboard, are immediately worse off.

Colin & Juliet M.
02 Apr 2022
Good options in most most segments without a fee

Err...like this Delica with a $1000 rebate? https://rightcar.govt.nz/detail?q=g53298