Fuel efficient cars and National’s tacky little culture war

Written By: - Date published: 8:40 am, May 3rd, 2023 - 36 comments
Categories: climate change, michael wood, national, politicans, same old national, science, transport - Tags:

Recent days have provided a further example of why Aotearoa’s response to climate change has been compromised by politics.

Labour’s clean car discount policy, where purchasers of gas guzzlers subsidise the purchasers of fuel efficient and electric vehicles has been an outstanding success.

It has dramatically changed the nature of New Zealand’s car fleet with the number of electric vehicles spiking and with the overall fuel efficiency of the fleet increasing significantly.

This release from Stats New Zealand highlights how well the scheme is working:

The total value of passenger motor vehicles imported in the 12 months to March 2023 was $6.8 billion – an increase of 13 percent on the previous year. This represents the largest value of vehicles purchased within any 12 months to March.

Rises in imports were seen across vehicles of all reduced-emission propulsion methods, with electric vehicle imports having the highest increase of 127 percent, to $1.23 billion. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and the less common plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) increased 79 percent (to $1.12 billion) and 123 percent (to $176 million), respectively.

The combination of all passenger internal combustion vehicles increased 1.7 percent, to $5.6 billion.

This graph shows what is happening.

The scheme has been that successful that it is under fiscal pressure and rather than tip funds into the scheme the Government has announced changes to the costs and subsidies payable under the scheme.

You would think that this news would be treated as good news by all of the parties.  But no, National has chosen to go all culture war on it and accuse the Government in making the changes of delivering a kick in the guts to Kiwi farmers and tradies.  To complete the feeling of us verses them it has then launched an attack on Tesla owners.

This passage from yesterday’s Question Time in Parliament highlights why National cannot be trusted to be responsible when it comes to climate change:

Simeon Brown: Does he think spending $83 million subsidising wealthy people to purchase Teslas represents good value for money during a cost of living crisis?

Hon MICHAEL WOOD: I do believe that it is good value for money for the Government to invest in initiatives that reduce our carbon emissions during a climate emergency. The Clean Car Discount scheme has turned New Zealand from one of the world’s worst markets for importing the dirtiest vehicles in the world to one of the best markets for importing clean vehicles into our country. That has meant that the average emissions of vehicles coming into New Zealand have decreased by 14 percent over that period, that over 100,000 New Zealanders have gotten into cleaner vehicles, and that New Zealanders right across the income ranges have gained access to cleaner vehicles, which cost less to run. There was once a time in the National Party when members on that side actually supported action on climate. Unfortunately, it’s not a rare misstep that that member is opposed to it; it has now become the cultural norm in the National Party—a party of modern-day climate denialism.

SPEAKER: I’ll give the member an—order! I will give that extra question.

Simeon Brown: Thank you, Mr Speaker. So can the Minister confirm that, as part of the changes made today, he is increasing the taxes on tradies and farmers purchasing utes so they can do their jobs, so that he can then hand out millions of dollars to people purchasing expensive Teslas; and does he agree that this is just another kick in the guts for our hard-working farmers and tradies?

Hon MICHAEL WOOD: I recognise that the National Party and the member opposite wish to turn every policy that is about addressing climate change into a tacky little culture war, but our Government is actually focused on practical measures that reduce emissions across our transport sector. Of course, what the member is trying to do here is present the Clean Car Discount as a policy that only applies to those purchasing a vehicle like a Tesla, and that is completely wrong. For example, the biggest make of vehicles that has attracted both the largest number of discounts and the highest total value of discounts have in fact been Toyotas. The two most commonly sold vehicles that have attracted a discount under the Clean Car Discount have been Toyota models that sell for under $20,000. Ours is a Government which is getting on with reducing transport sector emissions. We will keep doing that while the National Party continues to wallow in their lazy climate change denialism.

Clearly the drivers of fuel inefficient utes and four wheel drive vehicles will continue to pay the fee and hopefully this will persuade them to, where they can, change their choice of vehicles.  And why shouldn’t the drivers of the most fuel inefficient and polluting vehicles pay a premium?

For farmers and tradies they will continue to have the tax benefits associated with the vehicle.  They can claim GST on the fee and depreciate the cost of the vehicle.  Drivers of Remuera Utes will not have the same ability to recuperate.

The reality is that as a nation we will need to transform the nature of our car fleet over the next decade if we are to hope to meet our greenhouse gas emission targets.

These tacky little culture wars clearly show that National is interested in power for power’s sake.  And that it has no idea how to address the Civilisation threatening issues that our country and our world faces.

36 comments on “Fuel efficient cars and National’s tacky little culture war ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    We use Ford Rangers as our vehicle for our techs. But, not much option there. They often have to tow heavy mobile compressors to sites. And there is nothing I know of on the market so far as electric utes go that will meet that requirement.

    The other thing about EVs at the moment, is that they are often coal powered vehicles when we need to turn on the Huntly power station.

    So, what is needed most urgently is more renewable power.

    What I don't understand is why the government doesn't offer significant rebates for people to install solar power on their roofs. Especially if the installed systems include battery storage. That would get a large amount of renewable energy online much faster, wouldn’t require all the resource consents, and would be a vote winner I suspect.

    Battery storage is a key to make solar power better suited to the grid I suspect, as it means less excess electricity being inputted into the grid when it isn't needed.

    • Tiger Mountain 1.1

      It is just the beginning with EVs really but even National’s semi mythical “tradies” will hopefully get there in the end…and charge them at home with solar panels as you say. Some lines companies have been resistant to household solar power in the past.

      I have an Ioniq 5 and talk about torque…though they are top end speed limited in NZ to 115mph, but electric cars can keep winding out. But with the state of our roads it is not important at all. Just the feeling of driving past gas stations for a year so far is worth it.

      • tsmithfield 1.1.1

        “Some lines companies have been resistant to household solar power in the past.”

        That is why I think the battery addition would make panels a lot more palatable to power companies, because the power tends to be stored rather than fed uncontrollably into the grid.

        We will have to look at some of those ute options next time we upgrade a vehicle, if they are available in NZ.

        • Tiger Mountain

          They are horrendously priced at the moment, dunno if it is some sort of corporate ticket clipping for changing the paradigm or R&D and battery costs. But the specs look interesting alright.

          Watched a 2019 TV show “The Long Way Up” where Rivians accompanied early test version Harley Davidson electric bikes on a journey from Patagonia to LA.

          EVs are fun when you drive a reasonable one, but I guess the mini ones are great for urbanites.

      • Mike the Lefty 1.1.2

        I would love to get an EV but at present there just isn't available one of the type I need, a station wagon or mini van. One day hopefully.

    • bwaghorn 1.2

      Given that national hates the thought of subsidizing wealthy people into tesla, I'd imagine they would be totally against helping wealthy home owners out with panels and batteries!!!

      • tsmithfield 1.2.1

        Given that national hates the thought of subsidizing wealthy people into tesla, I'd imagine they would be totally against helping wealthy home owners out with panels and batteries!!!

        Firstly, I was talking about "the government"' as in any government. Secondly, not all home owners are "wealthy". But, it is really about pragmatism more than anything else. Other solutions take years to approve and get built, cost billions, and tend to have major environmental impacts.

        The solar on the roof idea is far quicker, doesn't impact on the environment, and likely wouldn't cost any more than any other solution.

        Probably the biggest consideration would be the orientation of the house. Because not all houses are well located for solar.

        I think including battery storage in the subsidy is the trick, as power companies should find that a lot more acceptable.

        • bwaghorn

          I'm good with panels , but not keen on the battery bit, people on batteries won't want to contribute to the national grid infrastructure.

          • tsmithfield

            But, I think the problem is that the solar panels without storage cause the power companies headaches.

            The idea with storage is that it would mean less people needing to use the grid. Hence, less load on it.

          • RedLogix

            You have hit the hidden nail on the head. The provision of electrons is only a tiny fraction of the cost of delivering energy to your home or factory. The bulk of it lies with the capital and operations cost of all the infrastructure required to get those electrons to you.

            At present your electricity bill is dominated by the per unit cost, with a relatively small fixed cost. If everyone however stopped buying electrons and relied on the grid just to manage the risk of supply and demand mismatch – the utilities would be compelled to charge far greater fixed costs to reflect the real price of delivering the actual service that you are now using.

            • Incognito

              Your hypothetical and somewhat exaggerated scenario assumes that grids stay the same and nothing else changes. That seems highly debatable, don’t you think?

            • Graeme

              If you have a household solar system, with or without batteries, you still need the grid to export your surplus. This is what makes the economics of solar work.

              Really the grid connection is more relevant with a battery as the storage gives the ability to sell the energy in evening peak when prices are highest. This isn't quite a thing for the individual owner, yet, but it is how Solar Zero's business model works. I gather this may be coming for others in near future.

    • Mike the Lefty 1.3

      People who don't like EVs use this weak argument that when you drive an EV you are using coal powered electricity. You might and you might not be – no different from using any other electrical appliance. They don't think if they turn the heat pump, cook a meal on the stove or have a shower it won't be any different? No, they just single out EV charging.

      • tsmithfield 1.3.1

        The point is, the cart has been put in front of the horse in that we don't have enough renewable energy to power EV's on renewable energy all the time. If the electrical load dramatically increases due to EVs but renewable energy does not, then it becomes a bit of a virtue signalling exercise.

        • Thinker

          When cars first came on the scene, they were novelties. I think you bought petrol out of tins, from hardware stores, before the volume of cars automatically made it worthwhile to build supporting infrastructure like petrol stations.

          One day, not far away, there will be more EVs sold than petrol vehicles. I think we're not far from that. Much further in time and petrol vehicles will be as scarce as horses and carts are now, on our roads.

          Somewhere between those two dates, what we now call a subsidy for EVs will become a penalty for petrol vehicles.

          Before then, I guess EV cars will be a political football and there's no-one better to be a naysayer than Luxon's lot. I don't say "National" because in my opinion Luxon's people are the quintessential Kiwi Knocking Machine, worse than many National governments.

          It's May in election year and I've still to hear one decent policy statement from Luxon's opposition. Most of the time they just find something (anything) to say why what the government is doing is naff. No educated debate, just petulant, jealous put-downs. Sometimes, we get lucky and they say what they would do if they were the government – usually it's the opposite of what the government are doing, with no thought to application, funding etc.

          In the midst of a global recession they blame ours on the government as if "when NZ sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold".

          But don't knock it. At the third-term starting grid the money should be on National to win, but at the very least I think Labour has an even chance.

          For farmers, interesting analogy about putting the cart before the horse. IMHO, that's where we are – we can liken petrol powered vehicles to horses, EVs to Massey Fergusons.

          Farmers will buy EVs when it makes sense to do so and that's fair enough – they are running a business, sometimes on a shoestring. I would imagine now the technology isn't reliable enough and the facilities aren't there to make it a sensible decision to swap.

          I worked with a lady whose dad owned a high country station in Otago and she told me how farmers are using drones to check out stock and whatever, where once they used quad bikes. So they aren't technophobes, but we townies forget that farmers can't just call the AA to tow a broken EV a couple of kms to the nearest dealership.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    National are deeply unserious about government – the likes of Simian Brown just want to own the libs by filling the roads with huge gas guzzling utes then chortling at the mayhem they cause. Climate change can get f*cked and anyway, the sooner the end of times for humanity and the rapture comes the better.

    • Tiger Mountain 2.1

      Simian does seem to be usually taking the piss that's for sure. What planet are YOU on Mr Brown?

      • tc 2.1.1

        He lives on planet entitlement and is another useful tool in occupying airwaves to push the messages.

    • Thinker 2.2

      They're like the proverbial dog chasing a car. If they caught it they have no plan what to do with it.

      Why I vote left is because I believe the left fights to be the government; National fights to become the government. Forced to vote right, I would prefer ACT to National.

    • Mike the Lefty 2.3

      Just to add to your comment.

      I used to get a lot of (unsolicited and unwanted) Facebook feeds from Simeon Brown. By far the majority of them have him photographed posing with some kind of petrol guzzling hot rod car. When I pointed this out and asked him why we should take his inconsistent stance on EVs seriously when he was obviously a petrolhead the feeds suddenly ended. Funny that! These National clowns don't know what to do when they are faced with people who can see through their dog-whistle populism.

    • georgecom 2.4

      has Simeon Brown actually contributed anything to Parliament since he has been an MP? I am hard pressed to think of anything myself

  3. National keep saying that tradespeople have no EV choice. Not true-LDV have a 100% electric van on the market now.


    Note the LDV advert specifically states that the EV subsidy of $8625 is available for this van.

    • Tiger Mountain 3.1

      Well done Git, combat them with facts as unpalatable as they may be to the double cab fraternity.

      As a petrol head from way back, I really appreciate the promise of EVs and the reality of running one. I started with a Ford Custom 300, Galaxies, Fairlanes etc. and several of my friends still have them, but Sunday only cars in reality, and we are the last generation to be into such things.

    • alwyn 3.2

      That has a carrying capacity of about 70% of a Ford Transit so it isn't too bad. However what is the towing capacity? As far as I can see it is only 500kg, whereas most of the Transit range can tow between 1700 and 3500 kg according to their brochures.

      Can your proposal compete?

    • Incognito 3.3

      For the full specs, incl. towing capacity, of LDV e-Vans, see here:


      It took me about 12 secs. to find this.

      I consider the towing capacity of (electric) vans a red herring and it appears that RWs are throwing up shed loads of red herrings to muddy the waters. The simple point is that we must wean people off fossil fuels, even if this means that we go back one step before we can move/jump forward. The RW ‘argument’ is that if it is not a straight line upwards it must be rejected & resisted and we must choose BAU & status quo.

    • Graeme 3.4

      Something that's missing from the EV market here is conversions of existing vehicles. For utes with rear wheel drive this is quite simple mechanically, take out the ice engine and blot in an electric motor, for 4wd there's the option of taking out the gearbox and connecting the electric into the transfer box for a quite elegant conversion.

      Several outfits are doing the conversions in the UK. Electrogenic are one and do a 'drop in' kit for farm Land Rovers with a 4 year payback

      The drop-in conversion kit has been built down to a price. We have achieved our objective of a pay-back of 4 years or less for average farm use. This means your converted agricultural Defender will do everything you want it to do on the farm, quietly and with spirit

      A subsidy, or interest free loan like was done for LPG conversions in 70's might be a good thing. Would be easy to convert any farm or tradie ute and make some quick gains.

    • infused 3.5

      You should probably check the reviews of that van out.

      • Incognito 3.5.1

        You obviously did. So, what makes that van so bad that we should continue to buy those gas-guzzlers ad infinitum?

        If you have an opinion or an argument, state it or make it. Otherwise, you’re just trolling here.

  4. someNZpunk 4

    If CO2 reduction is the aim of the game then why aren't we heavily subsiding small hybrids like the Prius? A Tesla has a much higher CO2 manufacturing cost due to the size of it's battery.

    * Based off our current methods of power production a Prius and a Tesla have approximately the same CO2 output per kilometre.

    * A Prius can drive around 50,000km before producing more CO2 than what is required to produce a single Tesla battery.

    * Given the CO2/km is around the same (unless we move to 100% renewable) the Tesla will never produce less CO2 over the life of the vehicle.

    I've used Tesla as an example but the figures are around the same for any standard EV.

    How about we look at the actual numbers rather than pretend EVs are going to save the world from climate change.

    • phillb 4.1

      Sorry your facts are not (facts that is).

      The Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago models this and estimates that electric cars payback mileage is 21,750km with the average US power mix (which is 24% reniewable vs out 83%). According to Stats NZ we average ~7000km's per year. So worst case the period is about 3 years. The study uses a Model 3 and a Carolla. Your hybrid would have an even shorter payback, as it also has a battery (though admittedly not a large one).

      So after the first 21ks CO2 wise its gravy.

      The CO2/km is not at all the same (83% renewable remember MBIE)

  5. scotty 5

    Many commercial vans never tow anything.

    Couriers, whiteware service , flooring installers just some examples where long wheelbase vans are preferred to towing.

    • True Scotty…..and plumbers, electricians and many others.

      And, according to Alwyn, this van would tow 500kg which is useful.

      Plus there may be other EV vans on the market-I found this in 20 seconds which appears to be beyond National’s ability.

      • tc 5.1.1

        Don't let truth get in the way of spin.

        They assume the electorate are stupid so carry on Mr brown.

    • pat 5.2

      I saw a Tesla towing a heavily loaded single axle trailer the other day…I must confess i was quite surprised…I hate to think what it did to its range.

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