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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Electric Cars in New Zealand

Electric cars in New Zealand

The uptake of electric cars will benefit New Zealand by:

a) improving our balance of payments as it reduces the amount of liquid fuel we import

b) reducing our financial obligation under Kyoto due to our reduced production of CO
2

c) making our existing sources of renewable energy (hydro, geothermal) and future sources of renewable energy (marine, wind) more economically viable since electric cars can be charged, to a large extent, when power is available rather than on demand. For instance, if you can sell hydro power, rather than allowing surplus water to go over the spillway, the hydro dam is more economic. Demand-balancing, instead of the present Supply-balancing of our grids is the key to the more efficient use of our electrical generation capacity and electric cars fit perfectly into this new paradigm.

d) improving health due to reduced pollution by, reducing p10 carbon particles and smog from acid forming oxides of sulphur and nitrogen (from burning diesel and petrol). Improved health means lower health care bills

e) reducing road maintenance since i) electric cars tend to be lighter than petrol driven cars and therefore create less damage to roads and ii) electric cars do not drip petroleum products on to asphalt. Leaking petrol and oil degrade asphalt.

f) helping with supply balancing of our grids since electric cars which are not being used can be set to take electricity from the grid when electricity is cheap and available and feed it back for peak shaving. Despite inevitable energy losses, there is an economic gain both to the country and to the car owner from the adoption of this strategy.

It is therefore very much in our interest to encourage the uptake of electric cars. The government could subsidize electric cars the way she subsidizes KiwiSaver but subsidies should be very low on the governments list of available tools. Far better to simply set up the framework so that the uptake of electric cars happens by itself with no output of money from the government. Government at its best doesn't do things but rather sets up the framework so that other people do things. Measures that the government could take include:

a) ensure there are no import charges for electric cars. We do not have an electric car industry (yet?) to protect so there is no justification for tariffs of any kind. (and "it is very much in our interest to encourage the uptake of electric cars")

b) wave GST on the purchase of electric cars. There is no revenue at present from the purchase of electric cars and if removing GST is the measure which tips the financial calculation towards the purchase of an electric car, the government looses nothing. Without this measure, people won't buy electric cars and no revenue will come to the government anyway. (I see the holes in this argument but remember that "it is very much in our interest to encourage the.......................")

c) wave road taxes on electric cars for at least 20 years from the date of purchase. (Remember that "it is very much .................")

d) Switch government employees who are entitled to have a car to electric cars and reticulate government parking lots with charging points. Bargain with the car companies for very good prices based on the large number of cars you will be purchasing and based on the fact that with the government buying cars, this initiates the infrastructure which will make it possible for private citizens to buy electric cars. You give electric car manufacturers an 'in' to the New Zealand market by buying cars for government employees. (get a pharmac exec on this)

e) Encourage Shell (which now belongs to us) to put in at least one battery exchange station in each major city in New Zealand right now before there are significant numbers of electric cars in our fleet. Following this, as electric car numbers increase, encourage them to put further battery exchange stations at strategic locations so that one can travel from city to city.

f) encourage our power companies to give every possible support to  car charging locations. charging stations need greater electrical supplies than ordinary businesses and many of our electrical companies are government companies*. They are therefore amenable to government 'encouragement'.





*Since the writing of this blog, a little under half of each of our power companies have been sold off to private concerns.  We therefore have much less leverage with them.


g) encourage between-town restaurants, business car parks, city parking meter sites and so forth to set up card swipe charging points.

Set this all up now before the government becomes dependent on a new source of revenue

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