Friday, 12 July 2019

12 July 2019

EV or Evil

 From Ryan Bridge on the AM Show:

“Farmer Bob from central Otago with his Ford Ranger will be hit with a $3000 tax, while latte-sipping, lentil-eating Fabio from Ponsonby with his VW Golf Electric will get an $8000 discount.”

There’s no debate that electric vehicles are better for the environment than fossil-fuel burning vehicles in terms of vehicle emissions (notwithstanding wider impacts such as battery manufacture and charging – more below), but until they do the job that many of us need a vehicle to do – tow a boat, a trailer load of firewood, winch a log from a gully, or carry a load of fencing gear – then no amount of discount is going to make us buy one. I really do think the Associate Minister of Transport is entirely out of touch about what happens beyond her suburban cycleway.

But here’s my additional take on the consequence of raising a tax on used imported petrol or diesel powered vehicles. The cost of replacing a worn-out Japanese import, which the majority of motorists on lower incomes drive, will become cost prohibitive. Instead of trading the old Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla for a later model, people will hold onto these vehicles for longer, and we’ll start to see an aging car fleet of bad emitters on our roads, cancelling out the environmental benefits of all the new EVs being driven. Kind of reminds me of the 1980s when cars were so expensive we drove them until they had gaping rust holes and were belching smoke. After tariffs were lifted on imports, and subsidies removed from the New Zealand assembled Toyotas, we were finally able to access and afford a wide range of more modern, safe, and efficient cars. This was really apparent when one travelled over to Australia and noted the old Ford Cortinas, Falcons, and Holden Belmonts still making up a large proportion of the traffic right through the next decade.

Electric vehicles are already receiving generous subsidies through not having to pay any fuel taxes or road user charges. This is unsustainable because eventually there will be a tipping point at which government needs to raise more taxes to fund roading infrastructure. All these EVs continue to use the same roads. Promoting these vehicles by distorting the market for them will without doubt lead to a number of unintended consequences, while not solving any issues with traffic congestion.

This interesting article from Germany sent to me, zooms out a little on the environmental claims of EV proponents, including what might happen if through the oil and gas exploration ban, New Zealand might be forced to fire up the coal power stations to keep up with demand.

The above studies indicate that the terminology “zero emission” is a misnomer when referring to electric vehicles. Also, lawmakers should be cautious about subsidizing electric vehicles when their electricity is generated mainly by fossil fuels because they are not lowering the carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles by doing so. The old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” may well apply to many of the gimmicks and work-arounds advocated by whatever group is popular with a political and media elite at any given time. 

So, what would ACT do? It is obvious we need to both reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, or at least the traffic congestion they cause due to lost productivity, but also find a way of funding new and improved roads and transport modes. ACT has long been an advocate for congestion charging, and for finding new ways to fund infrastructure directly from growth.


This title for our new podcast series was chosen to contrast with the sound bytes we are fed by mainstream media.  Brooke van Velden (ACT’s number 3 ranked candidate at the 2017 election) and I discussed the above topics and more in this week’s broadcast. You can tune in every Thursday evening from 7.00 pm for approximately 20 minutes on David Seymour’s Facebook page, or download to listen at your leisure from Podcasts NZ.  Click here to watch this week’s episode.


Oh please, can we desist with this type of language?  We’ve got “emergencies”, “crises”, and “nuclear-free moments” and now “our generation’s WWII”.  This has the effect of crying wolf and when we have a real emergency, such as an imminent tsunami, cyclone, or meteor strike, nobody will be listening.

Beth Houlbrooke

Deputy Leader / Vice President