Herald on Sunday

EV move a waiting game


Human behaviour being what it is, it’s likely many people will work around the upcoming vehicle “feebate” rules.

Motorists who buy new cars from July 1 can get rebates of nearly $8700 for a new electric or plug-in hybrid car, and about $3500 for used cars. The incentives would be paid for by fees based on emissions levels applied from next January to new petrol or diesel cars of up to $5875, and up to $2875 for imported used cars.

Most likely, people considerin­g replacing their petrol vehicles in the near future will bring that forward to avoid the fees. New and used fuelburnin­g cars, vans and utes will be snapped up. That will be especially the case for farmers and tradies who need vehicles with the power to carry large loads. Some people with reasonably late model, still reliable petrol vehicles will just hold on to them for quite a bit longer.

Many people will be conservati­ve about when they go electric. No one wants to risk vehicle trouble on a long trip. They will wait: until EVs dominate the market; until battery technology improves; until prices come down, and until charging stations are everywhere.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she hoped EV or hybrid utility vehicles would be available within two years. “In the meantime, none of this applies to existing vehicles in country, those in the second-hand market, those already here. It’s only for new, and new imports. So there are options to avoid the fees regime.”

The Government’s feebate measures have a strong element of trying to prod people to adjust their thinking in preparatio­n for what’s coming — no easy task. With every new technologi­cal advance becoming everyday life, it takes time for the majority to adopt it.

The actual number of cars on the roads needs to gradually come down. Greater use of rail transport is required. Much wider acceptance of remote working and use of electric-powered public transport would reduce car trips. Downtowns could develop more mixed uses rather than being pied pipers for commuting office workers.

While it’s an important pathway, relying too much on a strategy of vehicle electrific­ation to achieve emissions targets is risky. While we wait for EV use to become widespread, the driving conditions don’t match the speed at which action is needed to tackle global warming.

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