EV Torque - what is the plan?

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Words: Mark Gilbert
18 Oct 2020

In my recent columns I have encouraged you to ask questions of your local candidates because I feel that significant change is coming, but as a car buyer, you may well be the last to find out.

At the time of writing this there has been little said about the future make-up of the New Zealand fleet. That’s surprising since we have both international and local commitments to decarbonise the transport sector and achieve net zero carbon by 2050. So what’s the plan?

The Coalition Government has brought no change to the Hon Simon Bridges’ inspired 2016 proclamation to have 64,000 EVs on the roads by 2021. This simply ain’t going to happen!

So to stimulate the debate, a not-for-profit that I chair (Drive Electric) issued a call to action for the four major political parties. No proposals have been forthcoming as yet but this likely requires some time.

The proposal is premised on five key actions and ambitiously suggests that the NZ fleet will need 250,000 EVs on the road by 2025 if we are to have any hope of achieving the net zero carbon target. This is based on our need to reduce emissions by around 60 per cent by 2030 to stay within the 1.5 degrees of warming, which is the target in the Zero Carbon Act.

The key actions proposed by Drive Electric are:

Develop a bi-partisan pathway for the transport sector to deliver New Zealand’s climate change objectives. The transport sector can make an important contribution to the zero carbon ambition, but there need to be clear targets and a well defined transition pathway, engaging industry and with support from both sides of the house.

Encourage businesses to purchase EVs for their fleets. This would assist quicker adoption with most corporates turning their fleet over every two to four years. Indicatively one-third of all new cars sold go to corporates, so targeting these groups makes sense. This might require some encouragement in the form of FBT holidays or accelerated depreciation to fast track results.

Government leadership on EV use. There are approximately 16,000 vehicles in the government fleet. In the recent past the Coalition signaled it wouldn’t add EVs to its fleets before 2025. However the rumour mill is that this position may well have changed with encouragement being given to get as many EVs in the government fleet by 2025. This move is long overdue and welcomed.

Make New Zealand a globally attractive market for EVs. With the UK signaling the demise of pure fossil fueled cars and hybrids by 2032, NZ needs to declare its position. If we don’t, we risk being overlooked by international car manufacturers. Worse, without clear guidance from the Government on EV targets and emissions standards, we risk becoming a ’dumping ground’ for cheap petrol/diesel and hybrid vehicles from the UK, making our transition to a low emissions economy even more difficult.

Encourage New Zealanders to move to EVs. Setting a bi-partisan target and a transition pathway will create future certainty for New Zealanders to consider EVs, especially as the cost of ownership reaches parity. With technology changing and shifting towards electric vehicles, it is equitable to let everyone know that this change is coming to inform their future investment decisions.

Our hope is that the political parties believe a plan is necessary and that they adopt many of these suggestions.

This article first appeared in the September 2020 issue of NZ Autocar magazine.


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