Vehicle choice incentives needed
When University of Canterbury electrical engineering researcher Allan Miller said at the national energy conference this week that electric vehicles were too expensive to proliferate in New Zealand, he was right.
There is no doubt that while the country in general, and Christchurch in particular, would benefit from the cleaner air associated with such vehicles, take-up will be slowed by such anxieties as vehicle range and the lack of any meaningful infrastructure, as well as eye- watering prices.
Even in the United States, where a pure electric car like Nissan's Leaf brings with it a subsidy of $8914, there is faster growth in sales of diesel cars than plug-in and hybrid cars.
This is without any tax relief or subsidy, and the decision to buy them is based on serious fuel savings and lower emissions, but without the hefty sticker price and without having to compromise daily driving habits.
China offers $10,460 to EV buyers. Even cash-strapped Portugal ($8104) and Spain ($10,220) have incentives, with France and Ireland offering similar amounts.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is avoiding subsidies but is encouraging EVs by offering free parking, unrestricted use of bus lanes and allowing owners to avoid road taxes.
Britain subsidises electric cars to the tune of $9787, but it too is noting a slow take-up, with improved petrol and diesel vehicles proving to be the easiest and cheapest way of avoiding congestion charges and higher road taxes, which are based on a sliding scale of CO2 emissions.
In New Zealand, we may have to wait until electric car prices become realistic, but the Government and councils should not sit on their hands.
To educate the driving public on the advantages of driving smaller vehicles with lower emissions while waiting for better- priced, longer-range EVs, we should look at incentives of our own that reward sensible transport choices and encourage people to keep more profligate vehicles out of the commuting stakes.
Weight-based parking rates spring immediately to mind, while taxing vehicles based on stepped CO2 emissions rates would also unclutter streets and parking spaces and start to clear the air in the years before that great day when some future mayor cuts the ribbon on the city's first EV-only parking and charging area with its own special gardens.