It’s time to end our love affair with the petrol engine
New Zealand is struggling to reach its Kyoto targets and balance its books, so any moves by the Government in Budget 2015 to support electric vehicles will go a long way to alleviate these problems.
New Zealand has an abundance of naturally generated energy so it’s the ideal environment for electric vehicles. Approximately 70% of our total energy is produced from wind, geothermal and hydro, with fossil-fuelled stations making up the difference.
New Zealand spends in excess of $7 billion a year importing crude oil and refined fuels and light vehicles consume about 50% of this.
Many still put electric vehicles in the “interesting but not practical” box with preconceived ideas of having a very limited range and speed and being no bigger than a shoebox on wheels.
Oh how that has changed on all counts.
The latest electric cars look no different to a normal four-door sedan and have a much greater range. A recent AA New Zealand test of three vehicles showed how much technology has moved in the last few years.
During their test they discovered that the quirky little iMiEV has a range of approximately 100km in normal driving conditions; the full size, futuristic-looking Nissan Leaf (2011 World Car of the Year), with seating for five and a practical boot has a range of 120km; while Holden’s new Volt has a range of about 65km before the driver needed to switch to a petrol-powered ‘range extender’ motor to charge the battery.
There are lots of opportunities to promote electric vehicles to boost the economy.
The Government has shown its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases by exempting electric vehicles from paying road user charges up to 2020. This could be extended into rebates for purchasing electric vehicles, increasing the taxes on petrol and diesel or investing in an accessible public charging infrastructure.
One of the more valuable moves could be a public education programme or campaign, not only about the benefits of electric vehicles, but debunking myths and old thinking.
AA New Zealand has already shown that an electric vehicle can accommodate the daily needs for a majority of New Zealanders. One-sixth of household car trips (trip chains) in New Zealand are under 2km long and almost half are less than 6km long, well in the range of vehicles on today’s market.
And yes, these vehicles cost more than traditional petrol cars, but running expenses are sharply lower. It is estimated that electricity would cost about 30c per litre for these cars, compared with $2 for petrol, and because they have fewer moving parts, electric cars are much cheaper to maintain.
Depending on the fate of the aluminium smelter, the New Zealand power grid could receive an extra 15% supply, further driving down electricity prices.
Electric cars are the way of the future. New technology will continue to drive down the price of these vehicles, will increase the life of the batteries and also their range and speed.
New Zealand holds all the cards to become early adopters. We need to end our love affair with the petrol engine and spark a new romance with electricity to help power the economy.