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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Legislation for Electric Cars

New Zealand may not be amongst the top countries in electric car technical innovation* but that in no way stops us from introducing the best legislative framework to encourage their uptake. The best time to enact such legislation is right now when there are virtually no electric cars on our roads and the government has not become addicted to a new revenue stream.  The government could gently nudge us toward electric cars and hence away from fossil fuel cars.

* Since writing this blog, Tesla has released all its patents to the world.  If we wanted to, we could produce the affordable electric car (lets call it the Kiwi)

The benefits of a large uptake of electric cars in New Zealand are far too evident to need rehashing here so right into the legislation. At the end of this blog is an Appendix listing the benefits of replacing our fossil fueled cars with electrics.

There are a number of measures which can be taken. Most of them don't involve dipping into the public purse. Institute all of them and we will be the leaders in the world in electric car uptake just as Germany is the leader in the uptake of solar panels. Such measures include:Italic

1. Wave GST (sales tax) on the purchase of electric cars. This will reduce the price of an electric car by a ninth. The uptake of electric cars is in our National Interest.

2. Do not impose road taxes on electric cars. Here there is no need to do anything. Simply desist from doing anything. There will be no use of gasoline and hence no gas tax and of course no diesel road miles. Avoid the temptation at-all-costs of finding some innovative way of taxing electric cars. Remember this is in the interest of New Zealand as a whole (see appendix below). If you can't resist putting on a road tax, wave it for 20 years from the date of purchase of the vehicle. The uptake of electric cars is in our National Interest.

3. Allow the use of KiwiSaver (pension) funds to purchase an electric car just as is done for a first home. Owning an electric car is the same as getting a pension, except the pension starts immediately at the date of purchase, not at age 65. This is because the cost per km of driving an electric is about a third of the cost of driving a petrol car even when you charge your batteries at the full daytime rate. Note here that the Prius has come up with a solar roof retrofit that gives about an added 10km per day in the sun. An electric car with all surfaces covered by solar panels would likely get about 30km extra for a day in the sun. A driver doing reasonably low road miles would never have to fill up again. The saved money can either fuel the economy directly by daily purchases of other products or go into savings which also power the economy through investment. Electric cars are in New Zealand's national interest.

4. Ensure that there are absolutely no import taxes, stamp duties etc. on electric cars. We don't produce our own electric cars so there is no industry to protect and once again, fight against the temptation to collect money for the government from electric cars. Remember that replacing our fleet of fossil fuel cars with electric vehicles is very much  tada tada tada........... You get the message.

5. Do some bargaining with the manufacturers of electric cars for good prices. Promise them all the government business if they will give good prices. Have all government employees who get cars as part of their package, driving electrics. Reticulate government parking lots with charging points where you plug in, swipe your credit card and fill up your batteries. (see Project Better Place).

6. When there is a fair penetration of electric cars in the national fleet, institute the system they have in Canada in many places where a special lane is set aside for cars with two or more people in the car. In our case make the special lane for two or more people in an electric car.Link

7. As you take over and upgrade the railways, set up a system whereby you can piggy back your electric car on the train for a reasonable price like you do on the ferry, for long trips between towns. Get some of the rail cars that ply the Chunnel. They are already set up for this. Modify as necessary and then manufacture our own. Make sure you can charge your car on the train so you have a full charge when you reach your destination. Put the cherry on the top and electrify the trains as well and we will really be on our way. Put wind turbines along the easement of the railways wherever technically feasible, especially on scenic routs used by overseas tourists. They will love it.Link

8.  Start negotiations with VolksWagen to manufacture the Bulli here in New Zealand when they have it  sorted out or even:::

9. Hire the best, most innovative, small team of engineers available and start a car industry in New Zealand producing an affordable electric car called, of course, the Kiwi. And why not. What Jackson has done for movies, someone could do for electric cars.

Benefits to New Zealand from the uptake of electric cars.

1. Improved balance of payments. The importation of fuel and lubricants is a large expense to our country.

2. Reduction in green house gases. Surprisingly this is so even if coal is used to generate the electricity due to the efficiencies of large coal plants. It becomes doubly so as a country replaces coal generated electricity with renewably generated electricity.  In the case of New Zealand we already produce half our electricity from hydro, perhaps 20% from geothermal and a bunch more from wind and a tad from solar.   To quite an extent, cars can be charged when electricity is available so we enter the realm of demand balancing rather than supply balancing.

3. Increased profitability of our existing hydro electricity generation plants and of any soon-to-be-built renewable energy plants since, by using demand balancing, excess power can be used to charge electric cars "when available" rather than letting this power go to waste. (Incidentally, power can be fed back from an electric car, when needed, further increasing the efficiency of the whole system.)

4. Cheaper travel. Even when charged at the full daytime rate, it costs about a third as much to drive a km in an electric car than in a petrol car. Remember the main function of government is to look after the good of her citizens, not to look after business. Often measures that serve business, serves the needs of the people but there are many instances where the opposite is true.

5. Reduction in pollution with the reduced emission of oxides of nitrogen, soot and other combustion products. Electric cars will result in reduced public health care costs.

6. Reduction in a our financial obligation under Koyoto/Copenhagen as we use less fossil fuel.

7. Far cheaper repair bills for cars*.

*note a recent small item in the Press reported how European mechanics and car dealers are worried about the advent of electric cars. They realize that it will pretty well put them out of business - much like the harness and carriage makers were put out of business when the motor car replaced the horse.  A DIYer of modest ability should be able to maintain and repair pretty well anything on an electric car.

8. Much longer life for cars (electric motors, by their nature, can be made to virtually last a life time) and hence less mining of minerals, less destruction of the natural environment etc.

9. Possibility of balancing the grid both by charging when electricity is available and even more so by returning electricity to the grid when power is needed.

It is very much in the interest of New Zealand to replace our domestic fleet as quickly as possible so lets be innovative, think outside the box and get it under way.

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