Clean, light diesels discouraged in NZ

02:41, Nov 18 2011

While hybrid and electric cars enjoy all kinds of attention from environmentalists, politicians and the non-specialist media, it appears that sales of clean diesels are slowly but surely starting to overtake their electric competitors in that previously very un-diesel car nation, the US.

This is confirmed by Lars Ulrich, the head of diesel marketing for Bosch in North America, who says that diesel sales will hit a critical mass sometime in the middle of the decade, making up about 10 per cent of the US market, which means they'll be outselling hybrids by five to one.

What a pity that regulations in New Zealand prevent such a trend from occurring here. We force owners of diesel vehicles weighing as little as 1000kg to pay exactly the same road user charges as one weighing up to 3400kg.

Thus smaller, cleaner cars are being actively discouraged by the authorities who at the same time say they are trying to get us to use less fuel.

An idea of the inequity of the situation is that over 1000km a wee Ford Fiesta diesel has to pay something like an extra dollar in road user charges on top of the cost of every litre of fuel it uses, while something like a full-sized diesel-guzzling monster like a Hummer H1 only has to pay an extra 20 cents in road-user charges per litre over the same distance.

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Which one of these two vehicles is causing the most damage to the roads/environment?

Thus, one of the cheapest and easiest way to go greener and meaner with your driving is being largely denied us by an arcane road-user charging regime at which the rest of the world laughs.

A small diesel can be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than a hybrid of similar passenger capacity to buy, uses less fuel, and is vastly better to drive. So why are we discouraged from driving them?

Why don't we just pay at the pump so that the more mess you make and the space you occupy, you're automatically charged for it from the amount of fuel you have to use?

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