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Caution on EV cash incentives

Opinion Piece

The prospect of the Government providing cash as an incentive for people to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is a radical one but it might be necessary if the country is to make the transition quickly.

A survey of EV owners has found that more than half believe incentives will be needed for the country to achieve its goal of having half of all new vehicle registrations to be electric vehicles by 2025.

Some of their cars will have been bought first in the United Kingdom or Japan where such incentives exist that can be taken advantage of, then the vehicle landed here — highlighting a potential pitfall of such a policy, with their taxpayers supporting the growth of EV use elsewhere in the world.

Of the 60,000 new or light vehicles registered in the first three months of this year, just over 800 were EVs. That brings the electric fleet to 9241, a tiny proportion of the more than 4 million cars on the road here — indicating the target is unlikely to be reached if nothing changes.

A citizen science project, Flip the Fleet, which has tracked the views of hundreds of EV owners has shown that the higher costs of EVs puts many people off them, even though their running costs are much lower — especially compared to older internal combustion vehicles.

There is a feeling in the motor industry that while New Zealand has one of the highest rates of private ownership of vehicles in the world, and EVs are perfect for urban driving — particularly in large cities — there are major problems when a driver faces longer journeys; something particularly relevant in this district.

The television advertisement which says a vehicle could travel between Auckland and Mount Maunganui on one charge shows range issues are being addressed.

Battery storage and charging speeds will continue to advance, EV prices will come down, and more and more EV charging stations will be installed — but the question is how soon.

The interim solution to achieving the 2025 goal surely needs to be continued support for the installation of EV charging stations, and if a cash incentive is introduced until prices come down sufficiently, it should have controls around it.