EV Torque - Politics and cars

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Words: Mark Gilbert
16 Aug 2020

It’s only a few months until the General Election and, as a reader and likely passionate car owner, it’s time to interrogate each political party’s policy in regard to cars.

For the automotive sector, it’s anything but business as usual as we look toward the future and the next Government must have a solid plan for the road ahead.

Late last year the Government passed the ‘Net Carbon Zero Bill’. Everyone links this with 2050, but some suggest big changes to decarbonise the light vehicle fleet will need to occur in NZ by as early as 2030. Leaving it until 2050 won’t get us to where we need to be. A bi-partisan and unified goal is needed to make trans-electoral period change.

The Climate Change Commission suggested to the Minister of Infrastructure that all post Covid-19 ‘shovel-ready’ projects should factor in future environmental impacts. One example could be when they start digging up the road corridor and town centres. For they should be laying electricity cables to meet the future need of EV charge points. Ask anyone in the charging infrastructure game and the biggest hidden cost is laying the cables. Here’s an opportunity to get ahead of the game but it requires future-focused thinking.

And there’s the need for you, as a car owner, to have some knowledge of what the ‘marketplace’ is going to look like in the next decade and beyond, not just in the next three years.

Last month, I outlined the changes occurring overseas regarding reducing emissions. NZ is one of few developed countries without a plan to address vehicle emissions. It appears we lack the political will to do this. Changes instead will be force fed to us as we are a technology taker. We need to look closer at the global picture.

It’s time for the political parties to lay their plans out for you because change is coming, and it will affect all sectors of road transportation. It is well documented that the light vehicle fleet represents the “low hanging fruit” opportunity for New Zealand in terms of lowering emissions.

Most of us drive vehicles with an internal combustion engine, which will be the most affected by any changes. To not start the conversation now, when change is imminent, is morally wrong.

The previous National Government’s EV initiatives of 2016 are due to run out mid 2021 and were hardly comprehensive, and didn’t comprise a plan. The Green Party tried to introduce a Clean Car feebate system last year, but NZ First put out its stop sign on that. Coincidentally, NZ First listed in their 2017 election manifesto an action to: “Initiate a Public Inquiry on the future of conventionally powered motor vehicles - to put in place what we need to have mostly zero emission vehicles by 2050”.

This would be a good starting point in my view. And Labour seemed to support the Clean Car initiative, but perhaps not strongly enough. They announced the Government fleet will only consider electric vehicles from 2025. Not exactly leadership.

Note that Britain has announced that as of 2032, pure fossil fuel vehicles will effectively be illegal. With this decision we can advance the 2050 date, as the UK will influence what RHD makes and models are coming our way.

Your vehicle likely sits on your balance sheet as one of your chunkier assets, so as a consumer it is pertinent to raise this topic with your local MP, or MP aspirant, in the coming months.

There is no current plan, and this cannot just be left to market forces, or you will wake up one day and the value associated with your ICE vehicle will have vaporised. There is however, the technical and economic opportunity to form a robust plan for the future, and now is the right time to seize this opportunity in a post-COVID climate.


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


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