Now we get the newest fad from the “Not So Fast on Climate Action” crowd; complaining about electric vehicles (EVs), the most conspicuous ones being flashy and expensive Teslas, driven by people from “leafy suburbs” – code for rich people.
The principle gripe seems to be that EV drivers don’t pay road user charges, like drivers of petrol and diesel cars and trucks do. This and the Clean Car discount are, in essence, subsidies that other drivers don’t get. And all that money in subsidies won’t make much difference in the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions – the money would be better spent elsewhere in reducing emissions.
Let’s step back a moment and look at why these subsidies exist. The burning of fossil fuels creates greenhouse gas which is warming our planet and contributing to damaging weather. The world, including New Zealand, needs to stop burning fossil fuels. No one seems to argue with this anymore. So, how do we get to a fossil free world?
Unlike for air and sea transport, the technology to eliminate fossil fuels in land transport already exists. All it takes is a transition to electric vehicles. The problem is, technology and production capacity have not matured sufficiently to allow the manufacture of EVs at comparable price to petrol vehicles. For the same size vehicle, EVs are still significantly more expensive.
And, not everyone wants to deal with the inconveniences of driving an EV: Limited driving range, limited charging sites, long waits and sometimes queues at charging sites. Driving an EV takes a bit of patience, planning and adaptation that aren’t needed when driving a petrol vehicle. Given the existing price difference, even with the subsidies, no one buys an EV because it is the cheaper and more convenient option.
So, it makes sense that the government would “tip the scales”, at least temporarily, to get more people into EVs. If we are going to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, expanding the number of electric vehicles in the nation’s passenger fleet is a necessary step. It may not give the best “bang for buck” in eliminating emissions, but it is one of many steps needed to reduce the nation’s emissions.
So, for the Tesla-bashers out there, consider these thoughts next time you want an EV to give way to you at an intersection:
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These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.