Electric car advocates speak out against government policy

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Words: Matthew Hansen
22 Sep 2020

This week the New Zealand Government released its Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport. It’s a 60-page document, detailing the core issues with and remedies for local transport, public transport, and electric vehicles.

The document acknowledges that our current transport system contributes almost 20 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, noting our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But the GPS doesn’t go far enough according to EV advocacy group, Drive Electric.

“The GPS is predicated on New Zealand’s existing commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is widely believed to be well short of what’s required for New Zealand’s contribution to emissions to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming,” said Drive Electric chair Mark Gilbert.

“To stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, we need to reduce emissions in New Zealand by around 60 per cent by 2030. To do this we must focus on decarbonising road transport. Finding emissions savings in other areas, like agriculture, is much more difficult.”

Gilbert also noted that the Government’s aims of a projected increase in National Land Transport Fund revenue (from $4.4billion in 2021–2022 to $5.1billion at the end of the decade) via Road User Charges among other charges is also at odds with notions of climate change mitigation.

“This [increase] suggests the Ministry of Transport expects more kilometres will be driven by fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Road User Charges and fuel excise must be anticipated to fall, along with emissions from cars and utes.

“We must have a plan to actively decarbonise the cars Kiwis drive every day. It is essential that New Zealand produces a bipartisan New Zealand Motor Industry Plan, together with industry, that sets out how we can eliminate emissions from the light fleet. When it comes to climate change, all modes of transport must be considered.”

Considering the sudden rush in interest in local EV solutions, it’s a surprise to note that the document rarely discusses electric cars or electric car infrastructure in any capacity. Minister of Transport Phil Twyford briefly acknowledges in the document’s Forward.

“An important part of [carbon reduction] is maintaining our ongoing focus on the electrification of the light vehicle fleet,” he said. “This is supported by the Government’s work to transition our predominantly diesel-powered bus and truck fleet to low and zero-emissions power sources like electricity, biofuels and possibly hydrogen.

“Technology and the production of low and zero-emissions vehicles internationally is progressing rapidly, as is the development of infrastructure to support these vehicles. Our challenge is to accelerate the transition at an acceptable cost.”

The document comes after the National Party pledged to extend local EV owners current exemption from paying RUCs while also introducing a new exemption from paying fringe benefit tax until at least 2025. Beneficial parking and the ability to drive EVs in bus lanes are among the opposition party’s other ideas to make electric cars more appealing to Kiwi drivers. 

“The GPS must be updated and strengthened to respond to the emissions budgets set by the Climate Commission in 2021, and include a more ambitious and clear pathway towards a zero emissions transport system,” Gilbert added. “We have a ten-year window to achieve this.”

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