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We can kill off petrol cars without relying on the dreaded 'B' word

By Loabay Admin1, Jan 30 2019 12:15AM

OPINION: The Cabinet will soon discuss new incentives to encourage people to switch to electric vehicles, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter revealed last week.

Don't expect it to join the likes of Britain and France in setting a date for banning the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars.

But there may be a better way that might prove less divisive than an outright ban, which would be to set a date by which, say, half of all new car imports and quarter of all second-hand imports would need to be electric.

The benefit of post-dated bans on petrol car sales is that they can help tackle the "chicken and egg" problem in encouraging the switch to EVs.

Consumers will only buy EVs in much large numbers soon if they are cheap enough, but EVs will only become much cheaper quickly if manufacturers invest in the car plants to make them in much larger numbers.

Image : Image Library
Image : Image Library

Genter says one goal of the new incentives will be to ensure Kiwis have access to the same models of electric and low emission vehicles that are sold overseas.

Setting a date for phasing out new "internal combustion engine" (ICE) car imports would be the obvious way to achieve that and address the chicken-and-egg problem with demand and supply.

But post-dated bans only work if manufacturers actually believe they really will take effect and are not just "talk" – and that means achieving a political consensus that doesn't currently appear within reach in New Zealand.

Norway has passed a law banning the sale of new ICE cars from 2025.

The secretary general of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, Christina Bu, believes that is looking increasingly achievable, with "supply" rather than demand being the main challenge.

In September, 45 per cent of all new cars sold in Norway were fully electric.

But Bu noted Norway's coming ban enjoys cross-party support.

Image 3 : Image Library
Image 3 : Image Library

National Party transport spokesman Paul Goldsmith says it provided "not insignificant, but modest" subsidies for EVs by excluding them from road user charges.

But National has heavily criticised the Government's ban on opening up new permits for oil and gas exploration and does not yet appear near the point where it might endorse a future ban on ICE vehicles either.

Goldsmith appears to accept the "chicken and egg" concern with regard to supply and demand may be valid, but suggests National would be happier to leave change largely to the market.

National will "wait and see" what new incentives the Government comes up with and could look itself at further investment in EV infrastructure, he says.

"In terms of coming up with a date and saying 'in year X we are going to ban the combustion engine', I'm not in that space right at the moment."

Image 4 : Image Library
Image 4 : Image Library

If setting a date for a complete ban on ICE sales isn't yet politically realistic for either party, there might actually be a better way.

There are many reasons to think ICE petrol cars sales will die away quickly anyway once a "tipping point" is reached.

No-one wants to be last person trying to sell a second-hand petrol car in a market that has gone electric.

And as EVs start to become more mainstream, petrol stations will start to close and they will become less convenient.

More importantly, once EVs are in the majority, human nature dictates that will become a vocal moral majority, and petrol car ownership is likely to quickly become socially unacceptable.

Image 5 : Image Library
Image 5 : Image Library

Setting a date in the not too-far future – say 2025 – by which time half of all new car imports and a proportion of second-hand cars needed to be fully electric might avoid much of the public backlash and political controversy that would come with an outright ban.

But it might also be more effective at bringing forward the tipping point for EVs and at sending a quicker signal to car manufacturers than an outright ban in the more distant future.

Such an approach wouldn't be particularly difficult to implement.

Importing a single EV could generate a saleable right to also import an ICE vehicle, and those rights could be traded as a commodity between car dealers.

The net result of that would be a market-based solution that automatically created the EV subsidies and ICE surcharges necessary to achieve whatever import target the Government wanted to set – without incentives having to be funded through the tax system.

Source : Tom Pullar-Strecker STUFF NZ

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