Cutting Out CO2
The team at Christchurch's EV City are all about being as sustainable as possible. For them, selling electric vehicles is more about reducing carbon emissions than it is about profit.
The owners of EV City in Christchurch take sustainability seriously. It’s not just their vehicles that are electric - so is the showroom vacuum cleaner and floor polisher. The pot plants are all real and the sales spiel… well, there isn’t one.
The business was set up by Dave Boot, his wife Renata and father Ran Boot, and is just a month short of its first birthday. Sales are strong, but Dave says, “For us, profit is not a dirty word, but it’s not the driving force behind our business. We’re all about the cause – the need for the world to become more sustainable.”
New Zealand is still at the point where EV buyers are mostly early adopters, tech savvy and concerned about their carbon footprint.
“You’d be surprised at how many of our customers are vegans,” says Dave.
EV City sells used electric vehicles – mostly imported Nissan Leafs from Japan. They’re also picking up a few EVs from New Zealand car share or lease companies. An average month will see around 50-60 cars leave the showroom.
Dave and his sales team of two (Nick Haines and Jordan Wyatt) are prepared to talk at length to customers about the pros and cons of an EV. The process is more one of sharing knowledge and experience than it is about a quick sale.
“Before opening EV City, I was working in a dealership that dabbled in EVs. It was quickly clear that the customers coming in knew much more about EVs than the sales staff did – so they didn’t have that much confidence in buying from them.”
Dave, Nick and Jordan are passionate about electric vehicles. Dave says Jordan is more of an activist than an advocate.
“Jordan bought an EV off us and never left. We spent eight to 10 hours and endless messages in the buying process and then he joined the team.” While the cost of a new EV is still too high for many people, buying a used import is a different story. Dave says most people can buy a Leaf and pay it off over a few years with the money they save on petrol and maintenance. “Some can even save money this way.”
When customers come to EV City, they usually know they want to buy an electric car – but their first question is almost always about range.
“People think they need something that has a range of 300 to 400 kilometres. But it’s all about education and open conversations. I often ask them to push the trip meter on their current car and check just how much travel they do in a day. Just about everyone is doing less than 100 kilometres a day.” The used EVs at the dealership all have a range over 100 kilometres, many can do twice that or more.
“If someone is only going to drive to Dunedin once or twice a year, then they don’t need to worry about daily range.” There are now enough fast chargers in the South Island to get to Dunedin by ‘filling up’ once or twice on the way.
As part of his service, Dave also offers customers his “Plan B”. He has his “Prius of shame” and an old petrol ute that can be borrowed for trips off the grid, or a run to the tip at the weekend.
“But they’re not used very often – customers like the safety of knowing there’s a Plan B but they seldom use it. Owning an EV changes the way you look at the world and gives you more of a focus on environmental issues and reducing your emissions as much as you can.” There’s also the challenge of planning long trips: where you will charge up and how far you’re prepared to push the range.
The other common question from customers is how long the battery will last? Dave explains there are options around that as well. “The battery is still valuable after it has dropped down to around 70 percent state of health. It can be sold for home solar storage. A new or used battery can be dropped into the car to replace it, and this replacement cost is getting cheaper every year.”
Or you could buy another, later model EV.
Dave says he hears some strange comments about EVs both inside and outside the dealership
“I was at the Skope Classic motor races recently and the event commentator talked about how we were losing the romance of petrol.
He then said that old batteries were being buried in the ground. I’ve never, ever heard of that happening!” Then there’s the media reports that suggested if the national fleet went electric it would drain the grid. “Well, EECA has done the work on that, and a national EV fleet would add just 17 percent to our total demand - and there are already enough consents for solar, wind and hydro generation to cover that.”
“Oh, and the one about there’s more greenhouse gas emissions in the making of an EV than there is in an ICE car. That’s now proven to be quite untrue the carbon footprint is much less for the manufacture of an EV.”