Proposals could be game changer for EVs

Proposals to get more low-emission vehicles on New Zealand roads could be a major step for the transport sector and for transitioning New Zealand to a low-carbon economy, according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The Government is looking at phasing in minimum fuel efficiency standards for new and used imported vehicles from 2021, to improve the fuel efficiency and emissions intensity of the light vehicle fleet.

It is also considering a feebate system for imported vehicles so discounts are applied to certain low-emission vehicles, and fees are applied to high emission ones.

For the first year, 2021, new electric vehicles could be in line for a rebate of up to $8,000 and used EVs could get up to $2,600.

EECA’s chief executive Andrew Caseley says with light vehicles being responsible for 13% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the sector ‘is our biggest opportunity to reduce energy-related emissions.’

‘New Zealand’s light vehicle imports are among the most emissions-intensive and least fuel-efficient in the OECD, as most other countries already have efficiency standards,’ Mr Caseley says.

‘The lowest-emission vehicles available are EVs, but so far only 0.4% of the vehicle fleet is electric, with about 14,500 EVs currently registered in New Zealand.

‘EVs don’t burn fossil fuels and are powered by our highly renewable electricity grid so they really are the best option for cutting our emissions, but stronger fuel efficiency standards are also critical.’

Mr Caseley says overseas experience shows financial incentives work best for encouraging people to buy EVs, which currently cost considerably more than their petrol or diesel equivalents.

‘Transitioning to a low-emissions fleet requires a step change in the types of vehicles people are buying,’ and the proposals ‘would be the first major step for reducing our transport emissions.’

‘They won’t change the fleet overnight but would push us in the right direction. All low-emission vehicle imports turn over quite quickly in the market through second-hand sales and that’s how you start the transformation.’

Mr Caseley says when the proposals go ahead ‘it will also send a strong signal to EV suppliers there is a ready market here which should improve both the choice, and ultimately the cost of EVs.’

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