NEW ZEALAND CLAS­SIC CAR PRICE ON Elec­tric Cars and the Price of Petrol

Greg Price Are th­ese two in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked?

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In 2006 a very in­ter­est­ing doc­u­men­tary was re­leased on DVD, en­ti­tled Whokilledthe­elec­tric­car? — the liner notes of the DVD claimed that, “In 1996, elec­tric cars be­gan to ap­pear on roads all over Cal­i­for­nia. They were quiet and fast, pro­duced no ex­haust and ran with­out gaso­line. Ten years later th­ese cars were de­stroyed. Run­ning solely on elec­tric­ity, Gen­eral Mo­tors’ fleet of EV-1 elec­tric ve­hi­cles were so ef­fi­cient, they were on the brink of al­ter­ing the fu­ture of driv­ing in Amer­ica — per­haps even the world. Those lucky enough to drive one gave it glow­ing re­views. So why were they all de­stroyed?”

A very good ques­tion! Let’s hold that thought for the mo­ment and switch to talk­ing about the price of petrol.

In Oc­to­ber 2014, we saw the in­ter­na­tional costs of a bar­rel of oil start to fall — so much so that we all be­gan to ques­tion when the petrol price was go­ing to fol­low. As is al­ways the case, drops in the price of oil do not al­ways lead to a re­duc­tion in the price of petrol at the pumps.

The next in­ter­est­ing devel­op­ment ar­rived in Novem­ber 2014, when the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Orion NZ (an Elec­tric­ity Net­work Com­pany) an­nounced that it was con­sid­er­ing in­stalling de­vices which would con­trol when the bat­ter­ies on elec­tric ve­hi­cles will be charged. Seem­ingly, Orion wanted peo­ple to charge their elec­tric ve­hi­cles at night, pre­sum­ably in the same man­ner as they dic­tate to us when we can heat our hot wa­ter. What­ever, the im­pli­ca­tion for me was that elec­tric cars were about to be­come a re­al­ity for us in New Zealand.

An In­creas­ing Trend

Re­call­ing the afore­men­tioned 2006 doc­u­men­tary, ‘ris­ing petrol prices’ were cited as be­ing a pos­si­ble rea­son for the devel­op­ment of elec­tric car tech­nol­ogy. I’m sure it was a co­in­ci­dence, but around the same time as the Orion CE was ex­pound­ing elec­tric car tech­nol­ogy, we started to see a sus­tained drop in the price of a bar­rel of oil and, sur­pris­ingly, pump-price re­duc­tions fol­lowed. In Fe­bru­ary 2015, Mighty River Power was also push­ing elec­tric-car tech­nol­ogy. Mean­time, in­ter­na­tion­ally the cost of elec­tric cars was re­duc­ing, and the dis­tance they could travel was in­creas­ing. In that same month, there were re­port­edly only around 300 or so elec­tric and plug-in hy­brids in the coun­try, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that the trend would in­crease.

Back to the price of petrol — in Jan­uary 2015 it was re­ported that since Oc­to­ber 2014 the price of a litre of fuel had dropped a whop­ping 42 cents!

How­ever, also in Fe­bru­ary 2015 the fall­ing ex­change rate did an about turn and started to af­fect the price of oil once again, in that there was a seven cent rise in the price at the pumps.

Look­ing at the big pic­ture for the pur­pose of this ar­gu­ment, it is im­por­tant to con­sider that, ap­par­ently, one of the rea­sons why the oil price fell so much was the oil-pro­duc­ing car­tels were be­com­ing con­cerned that the US had be­come self­suf­fi­cient in its oil pro­duc­tion — al­beit via the ex­pen­sive frack­ing method. There was con­cern that Amer­ica would no longer be de­pen­dent on the oil car­tels, and the cor­re­spond­ing re­duc­tion North Amer­ica’s need to im­port oil would pro­duce a level of in­de­pen­dence pre­vi­ously un­heard of. Well, that’s a pos­si­ble rea­son for the oil car­tels keep­ing the oil price down, isn’t it? What bet­ter way to stop Amer­ica pro­duc­ing its own oil, than help­ing en­sure it is not cost ef­fec­tive? Af­ter all, the US had pre­vi­ously been de­scribed as be­ing ad­dicted to for­eign oil! How­ever, go­ing back to the in­creas­ing devel­op­ment of elec­tric-car tech­nol­ogy and its ef­fi­cien­cies for the mo­ment, one could sus­pect that the main rea­son for the sus­tained drop in oil prices could be the threat to the oil in­dus­try car­tel’s in­come posed by the in­creas­ing up­take of elec­tric-car tech­nol­ogy.

Power Up

The Orion chief ex­ec­u­tive claims the av­er­age petrol cost for the New Zealand driver is around $2500 per an­num, and that would drop to around $500 per an­num with an elec­tric car. So, us­ing my fin­gers and toes, that equates to around an 80 per cent re­duc­tion in New Zealand’s an­nual petrol im­ports — which re­port­edly amounts to around three bil­lion litres, cost­ing the coun­try some four bil­lion dol­lars. Will the NZ gov­ern­ment want to lose the GST com­po­nent on a few bil­lion litres of petrol?

Be­ing a con­spir­acy the­o­rist from way back, I reckon the (sig­nif­i­cant) fall in the oil price is the oil-pro­duc­ing na­tions’ way of at­tempt­ing to kill off the elec­tric car con­cept (yet again). If petrol is cheap, then the fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive for own­ing an elec­tric car is no longer a fac­tor in your choice of car de­ci­sion. In my opin­ion, elec­tric cars will not fea­ture promi­nently on our roads (or any coun­try’s roads for that mat­ter) any time soon, be­cause there is too much money at stake for too many in­ter­ests.

Keep an eye on the global oil price. If it tracks back up to or past pre-oc­to­ber 2014 lev­els then my ar­gu­ment fails some­what, but my view is that elec­tric cars will never be the prin­ci­pal form of trans­port in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

I mean, can you re­ally en­vis­age a bat­tery-pow­ered V8 mus­cle car?

The EJ EH Own­ers of NZ is a group on Face­book, which Joshua Ben­tham cre­ated in Novem­ber 2014 af­ter pur­chas­ing his first EH Holden from Nel­son in Septem­ber. The group has rapidly grown, and now in­cludes 70 EJ and EH Hold­ens with friendly and pas­sion­ate own­ers na­tion­wide.

The group has de­signed its own logo as well as stick­ers for the cars, fea­tur­ing a steer­ing wheel with the red cen­tre cap which best rep­re­sents the sym­bolic fea­tures of the EJ and EH Holden. The logo went through a vot­ing and com­ment process so that all mem­bers had their say in it, and this is re­flected in the qual­ity of the end re­sult.

The group aims to be dif­fer­ent to other Face­book groups by keep­ing a cur­rent al­bum of all mem­bers’ cars, so a ve­hi­cle doesn’t just dis­ap­pear down the news feed. It also has an al­bum of other EJ and EH Hold­ens known to be in New Zealand.

Mem­bers like to help each other out with mo­ti­va­tion and parts, and when pos­si­ble get more old Hold­ens out of garages, on the road, and driven to shows and events.

Last month the group had its in­au­gu­ral group meet­ing at Whanga­mata Beach Hop on the Satur­day, and even with the bad weather 18 cars turned up, 11 of which were driven by mem­bers, while oth­ers came by word of mouth. Next year the aim is to do it all again and hope to get 25 to 30 EJ and EH Hold­ens to the park up (hope­fully the weather will be bet­ter) to make it more pleas­ant.

The club is also in the process of cre­at­ing cruises and pro­mot­ing other events to help get the group mem­bers to­gether, get­ting to know one an­other, and learn­ing facts about one an­other’s ve­hi­cles.

The group has a range of Pre­mier and Spe­cial mod­els in all body shapes of sedan, van, ute and wagon vari­ants, and some mem­bers own more than one or even two EJ or EH, proof that own­ing a Holden can be quite con­ta­gious.

There’s an open in­vi­ta­tion for other EJ and EH Own­ers to join the group on Face­book.

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