Renewable Energy,Japan and New Zealand Compared

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Renewables and EVs: Japan and New Zealand Compared

No, not what you thought. Japan has very dirty power generation with renewables stuck at around 10% for two decades then rising last year to approach 15%. New Zealand has now powered up from 80 to 85% renewables feeding its grid - around the figures of Iceland and Norway. Both Japan and New Zealand are on the Ring of Fire and both have hydrothermal energy and hydro power but Japan has little wind beyond the odd typhoon. No one knows how to trap gigawatts in hours from a typhoon. Japan’s renewables are almost entirely photovoltaics despite overcast days being common. Japan must await Airborne Wind Energy tapping the better wind at 200-1000 meters. See the IDTechEx report, “Airborne Wind Energy 2017-2027”. New Zealand does not need that. It is in the “Roaring Forties” so land-based conventional wind turbines are rarely still – something very unusual anywhere else in the world on land. 

So what about spare capacity for electric vehicles? They could not be more different. Japan has no spare capacity since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the shutting of all nuclear power being compensated more by fossil fuel than renewables in the early years. New Zealand has enough power actual and committed to power all vehicles in Japan if tonight they all magically became pure electric.

EV adoption is very different too. Neither government encourages them much: Japan because they would be unable to power them and New Zealand because of shortage of funds and commitment, though the country, paradoxically, is fiercely green and anti-nuclear. The Japanese should therefore welcome the new Energy Independent Electric Vehicles (EIVs) mostly reliant on sunshine to never get electricity from outside but with some use of wind, waves and tide to make their electricity on-board. Oddly, there is almost no work on these EIVs in Japan, the main developments coming from Europe, the USA and China. See the IDTechEx report, “Energy Independent Electric Vehicles 2017-2027”. They will be much less needed in New Zealand.

New Zealand EVs are dominantly pure electric, with Norway one of the very few countries where this end game is happening already though most are secondhand Nissan Leafs from Japan. As of this year, Japan is plug-in hybrid land with the dominant non plug-in hybrid sales being largely replaced by plug-in hybrids in one year flat. The Toyota Prius is now a PHEV brand to most people. The Prius prime is a runaway success. In contrast, pure electric cars are a small percentage and charging stations are tough to find. They pursue fuel cell hybrids and have something of a hydrogen charging infrastructure for them but buyers are few: driving down an extra congested road to find hydrogen is unattractive. In New Zealand they ignore fuel cells. Toyota has the world’s two largest EV manufacturers if you include hybrids – Toyota and Nissan - most of what they make going abroad, indeed made abroad: New Zealand homemade EVs are little more than a few electric boats. Nevertheless, New Zealanders think they are backward: they are not. They even have huge opportunities and skills to make a large variety of niche EVs and export them.  

IDTechEx stages the world’s first conference on “Energy Independent Electric Vehicles” at the Technical University of Delft September 27-28 with Toyota as keynote speaker. Land, water and airborne EIVs and their new enabling technologies are covered. See the full agenda and register your place at

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 September 2017 )