Well, 2021 was quite some year. Sales of EVs reached new levels as buyers were buoyed by the Clean Car Discount.
We are edging towards a total of 35,000 EVs registered here. The ‘hockey stick’ growth curve has kicked in, although there’s plenty more to go; to hit our climate change goals we need well north of one million EVs on our roads by 2035.
In November, global leaders met at COP26 to discuss how the world should reduce its emissions. While the conference had mixed results, there was a notable outcome for the car industry. Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Volvo, BYD, Tata Motors and Land Rover Jaguar, along with 30 governments, pledged to phase out sales of new petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040, and by 2035 in leading markets.
The question then: “Is New Zealand a leading market”? It could be if we link our model line- ups with those available in the UK. But if we continue to align with Australia, it won’t be. Two dozen big fleets, including Uber, also vowed to operate only zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.
New Zealand signed the commitment, alongside Britain, which is indicating to end the sale of petrol-powered passenger cars by 2030. Notably, India, the world’s fourth largest car market, also joined the pledge. It was previously non-committal to a fossil fuel phase-down.
Don’t expect New Zealand to wait until 2040 to meet this commitment though. The current conversations around the halls of power suggest
that New Zealand’s fossil fuel phase out date would be 2035 at the latest. My prediction is that we could land on a timeline of the UK plus two years. That means 2032 for petrol and diesel cars, and perhaps a little later for hybrids.
You may have noticed there are some big names missing from the pledge. Car companies Toyota and Volkswagen were absent, along with China, US and Japan. Usually this would be cause for skepticism but almost every signpost in the market, pledge or no pledge, points to an electric future.
Toyota has recently announced it will sell 15 electric vehicles worldwide by 2025 and continues to heavily bet on hydrogen fuel cell technology. Volkswagen is investing billions to build six battery factories, installing a global network of charging stations and plans to roll out more than 80 new electric models by 2025.
The Chinese government is subsidising the uptake of EVs. Several key states in the US are also backing the pledge, including California, New York and Washington. California has banned the sale of petrol cars by 2035.
While all this action is happening globally at the new car end of the market, what happens to petrol cars at the end of their lives? This is an important question for New Zealand. We are a technology taker in terms of new cars but we do have some control over what happens to the old ones.
The MTA has a pitch in play to begin the scrapping of older vehicles. This would mean, effectively, paying people to get their old, unsafe,
high-polluting cars off the roads. This is something that needs to be explored in New Zealand. We can’t turn the fleet to zero emissions if old petrol cars hang around past their use-by date. So while the change process has well and truly started, there is still a lot more to do!
If you are out on the roads in the coming weeks, please take your time and stay safe on the roads. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and an electric New Year.
This article first appeared in the December/January 2022 issue of NZ Autocar Magazine.