A rebate programme for buyers of new and old electric and hybrid vehicles has been introduced.

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In a refund system launched today, anyone purchasing new electric and hybrid vehicles would be eligible to receive up to $8625 from the government.

Fuel taxes contribute much to the National Land Transport Fund.

Photo: 123RF

From 1 July people buying a used imported vehicle with low-emissions will also be able to get up to $3450 back.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Transport Minister Michael Wood announced details of the scheme in Auckland this morning.

The scheme will be funded through levies on high-emissions vehicles from 1 January 2022.

Wood said the clean car discount will prevent up to nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and will help with the up-front cost of switching from petrol-run vehicles.

He said changes have been made to the previous policy, or ‘feebate’ scheme that was revealed last year, then scuppered by New Zealand First.

“Only cars costing under $80,000 will be eligible for the discount scheme and we will also ensure that only the most safe vehicles are eligible for the scheme.”

Shaw said that scheme had, however, laid down some of the groundwork for today’s announcement.

“Obviously we weren’t able to get it over the line, so it’s good that finally we’re able to do it,” he said.

“I’m really pleased, as climate change minister, that we’re able to do this and start putting in place some of the most fundamental shifts that we need over coming years.”

He said the rebates would be available from 1 July this year for electric and plug-in hybrids.

A diagram showing the process for applying for an EV rebate.

Photo: NZTA / Waka Kotahi

The government is also setting up an EV sector leadership group to help to increase the uptake of low emissions vehicles.

The government said it will cost up to $5175 more to buy a new high-emission car, and up to $2875 more for a used import, like a Ford Ranger or a Toyota Hilux.

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From next year some petrol and diesel cars with low emissions will also be eligible for a smaller rebate – such as Suzuki Swift or Honda Jazz – depending on their CO2 emissions.

Wood said overall eight out of the 10 most commonly purchased cars in New Zealand will either be unaffected, or eliglible for a rebate.

He said there are significant benefits to owning an electric vehicle.

“Charging your EV at home off-peak is like buying petrol at around about 40 cents per litre, depending on your electricity retailer. And battery EV motors have so few moving parts that there is less to maintain, and less to go wrong.”

Under the government’s new clean car scheme there will also be fast EV chargers every 75km along most state highways, and car retailers will need to display emissions information.

Shaw said the last time there was carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the concentrations present today, there were palm trees in Antarctica.

He said that indicates how urgent it is to deal with emissions.

“Much of that has come from our transport fleet and our transport emissions as a country have been the most rapidly growing of any sector in the economy.

“So dealing with the energy that we use to get around within our cities and between our cities is the most urgent of all our climate change challenges.”

He said the Climate Change Commission has also laid down the challenge to arrest emissions.

Michael Wood and James Shaw at EV policy announcement in Auckland

Michael Wood, left, and James Shaw at the policy announcement in Auckland. Photo: RNZ/ Katie Todd

Technologies already exist – Sustainable Business

Sustainable Business director Mike Burrell said the technologies already exist to decarbonise the country’s light vehicle fleet and the costs are constantly falling.

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“The commission’s advice shows that the purchase price of a new battery electric vehicle will be cheaper than a petrol car by 2031, or very soon afterwards. Which is all very well – but New Zealand needs to move to lower-emissions transport, including the cars we buy, much sooner than that to meet our climate targets,” he said.

Mark Gilbert, chair of Drive Electric, a not-for-profit established aimed at promoting the uptake of EVs, said hundreds of thousands of EVs would be needed to meet the government’s climate targets.

He described today’s announcement as “monumental” and a “step change”.

“This announcement says to global car manufacturers that New Zealand is serious about EVs. We’re looking forward to seeing their response, in the form of new ranges and new models, perhaps including utes eventually,” he said.

The Climate Change Commission delivered its final report on Wednesday, laying out a plan for the country to reduce emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050.

One of its suggestions said that by 2035, practically all automobiles imported must be electric automobiles.

Greenpeace – More than just electric vehicles needed

Greenpeace said a government rebate for electric and hybrid vehicles is welcome news, but more investment in public transport is needed.

Greenpeace’s head of campaigns Amanda Larsson said she hopes the package will be complemented by offering alternatives to cars.

“This is definitely a good step, but it is just a small step, and it would be disappointing if the government put all of its eggs in the electric vehicles basket, because that won’t deliver the kinds of emissions reductions that we need to see.”

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Larsson said petrol and diesel car imports will need to be banned by 2030 to have an impact on transport emissions.

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