My brother, the smarty-pants aeronautical engineer, is back from Omaka with lots of pictures of old aeroplanes. He is really excited about a few and even got to fly in one. I haven’t seen him so excited in years. He is counting the days until he can buy one.
As we sit at the kitchen table over coffee, I’m waiting for the discussion to turn to climate change. I’m ready for him this time. Google Assistant has agreed to feed me the answers to his questions through my secret earpiece.
Gavin: “I was intrigued by your thoughts on climate change in our discussion this morning. But I don’t understand what you are so worried about. Technology will give us an abundance of renewable energy and cut our emissions. All we have to do is wait for the new technologies to arrive.”
Google (through the earpiece): “Technologies for cheap and reliable renewable energy have been growing rapidly in recent years. Science is developing ways to sequester CO2 from our atmosphere and prevent cows from belching methane…”
Me: “Well, yes. I suppose. The technology is progressing quite rapidly…”
Marg steps in: “The problem, Gavin, is that we aren’t applying the technology we already have. There are only 14,000 electric cars in New Zealand, out of how many million petrol cars?”
Gavin: “Well, you can’t expect things to happen overnight.”
Google (through the earpiece): “According to the Ministry of Transport, electric car registrations increased by 61 percent between July of last year and June 2019…”
Me: “Well, electric car sales are growing…”
Marg steps in again: “But not fast enough! The IPCC says we need to cut our CO2 emissions by nearly 50% in the next 10 years in order to stay below 1.5°C warming.”
Gavin: “I see your point, Marg. We’ll need a heluva lot more electric cars to make that target. You know, I was looking at an EV the other day; quiet and smooth to drive, cheap to recharge and maintain but the price is still pretty high.”
Google (through the earpiece): “2019 models of the least expensive electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq both sell for just under $60,000. Second hand EVs range from $15,000 to $50,000 depending upon model year and battery size. For example, a 2017 Leaf with a 40 kwh battery and range of 240-270 km costs around $40,000. Older models sell for less but have shorter range…”
Me (barging in): “A second-hand two year-old Nissan Leaf runs around $40,000 right now.”
Gavin: “Yeah, still pretty expensive. I guess, no matter how clean and green the technology, if the price is too high, people won’t buy it. That puts us in a bit of a hard spot, doesn’t it?”
Me: “I don’t think we can wait for the price to come down. We need to start buying electric cars more quickly than that. Maybe the government should step in.”
Marg: “It already has. It just announced a plan the other day to start giving discounts to people buying electric cars and charging extra for petrol-guzzlers.”
Gavin: “Well, that’s an interesting idea. I hadn’t heard about that. What about the range of EVs? I’ve heard you can’t go very far before needing to stop for a charge.”
Marg: “Well, that’s true. I have a friend with one and they have to stop every few hundred kilometres or so. There seem to be plenty of charging stations on the main highways nowadays. She likes to stop and stretch her legs and explore the shops when they stop to charge. It seems reasonable to me. I hate to drive long hours without a stop.”
Gavin: “Well, I gotta go. You know, Tom, you’ve got one smart woman there. I’d keep her happy, if I were you.”
Me: “Yeah, Marg is pretty special. I do my best.”
Marg: “What would make me really happy is if we buy that electric car you’ve been talking about.”
Gavin: “Well, that sounds like an easy way to keep her happy. Good idea Tom!”
Google (though the earpiece): “There are five new model EVs and three second-hand EVs available in your area. Should I arrange financing, Tom?”
Oh-oh. I guess I’m buying an electric car. I suppose it will make our rowdy climate-striking kids happy too.
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.