Huge investment in infrastructure needed to meet climate change goal – AA

There are enormous challenges ahead to reach the Climate Change Commission’s target of 40 percent of cars being electric by 2035, the AA says.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The commission has published a raft of recommendations for combating the climate crisis, with hopes to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.

It suggests banning any new petrol cars coming into the country at some point between 2030 and 2035.

It’s an ambitious plan given electric vehicles (EVs) make up fewer than 1 percent of the fleet.

Other large barriers include fears international demand will keep prices out of reach for New Zealand buyers, and the lack of appropriate works vehicles, such as utes, to suit local conditions.

The Automobile Association’s Simon Douglas said there were enormous challenges.

He said currently there were only about 250 charging stations available nationwide which was totally inadequate, and investment must be massively ramped up.

“It’s going to need to happen at a scale several times bigger than what we’ve seen so far,” Douglas said.

“And to do that we think the government is going to need to invest.”

Douglas said the AA wanted the government to spend money gathered from fuel taxes on charging infrastructure.

Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts said its stations were ideal for providing charging and it was now looking to expand this service.

“Clearly having a really strong state highway network where supercharging or fast charging facilities are regularly available – I think that’s a really important part of building out a network.

“So for example, not everybody drives from Auckland to Wellington. You might drive from Hamilton to Palmerston North.”

But Douglas said there were also big questions about how to manage charging hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the cities.

“We’ve got some very big picture visions from the Climate Change Commission and the government.

“But those very practical challenges like ‘do you have to chuck an extension cord out the window onto the street? … when we start to get 50 percent of New Zealand’s vehicles as EVs, whenever date that comes, we’re going to have to look very carefully at the infrastructure.”

Douglas said EV prices ranged from about $10,000 for a second hand vehicle to well over $100,000 for new vehicles.

But he said this was starting to come down and he expected the price differential with fossil fuelled cars to disappear in about five years.

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Photo: Supplied / EECA

Still, Douglas said this puts them out of reach of many New Zealanders and the commission wanted the government to help poorer people make the transition.

“To look at those equity issues, to look at subsidy schemes, to look at mass purchases of EVs, to look at lease schemes.”

There is widespread support for the government to bring some sort of subsidy or incentive to make EVs cheaper – something Cabinet is looking into.

But the editor of car review website Dog and Lemon, Clive Matthew-Wilson, said it was crazy for the government to be considering handing out money to the well-off.

“The vast, vast majority of people who are purchasing electric cars [are] upper middle class people with high incomes, the government will effectively be subsidising people who would have bought the same car anyway.

“And the money used for subsidising electric cars doesn’t go on where it’s really, really needed, which is things like trains.”

Matthew-Wilson said people who thought driving an EV put an “environmental halo” around their heads were “deluding yourself”, as battery disposal and the mineral extraction needed to make EVs was bad for the environment.

Matthew-Wilson said there were much better places to be spending taxpayer dollars.

“That’s the easiest way to lower our CO2 emissions.”

The final Climate Change Commission report will go to the government before the end of May, and the government has pledged to release a plan by the end of the year.

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