The end of petrol driven cars

Written By: - Date published: 1:57 pm, February 9th, 2020 - 36 comments
Categories: boris johnson, Economy, Media, public transport, transport - Tags:

The Government has set us a strong challenge, for our country to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The rationale is simple. Increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are cooking the planet. And we are beyond the theory stage. We are now seeing in real time the effects as predicted by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Whether it is the South Pole melting, Pacific Islands disappearing under rising seas or out of control forest fires in Australia the events are happening just as predicted.

Australia provides a particular insight into the future of our world.

Over the past few months Australia has been burning. Five million hectares has burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April. The need to avert even hotter temperatures that will cause fires to be even more catastrophic has to be abundantly clear.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.

The Government and all Councils need to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.

Because we have to stabilise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and if possible decrease it. With billions of trees and clean transport systems we can do it. But if we don’t it is clear we will wreck our one and only planet.

If you want an overseas example of what needs to be done then check out a recent announcement by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Yes you read that right. He announced that by 2035 only electric vehicles will be allowed into the United Kingdom fleet. And car manufacturers are screaming. From Gwyn Topham and Gillian Ambrose at the Guardian:

The government’s move to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 has been attacked by manufacturers as a “date without a plan”.

The policy, which will now come into effect five years earlier and include hybrid vehicles, was announced as Boris Johnson launched the forthcoming UN COP 26 climate summit.

While green groups welcomed the news and urged the government to set an even earlier date, motoring organisations said the UK was unprepared for electric alternatives by 2035.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the move risked undermining sales of cleaner, hybrid cars now, and the government needed to come up with a sustainable plan.

The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue. Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020.

“However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.

“We need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”

Believe me I am no fan of Boris Johnson. But he is right. If there is a date when your country is meant to become carbon neutral then at an earlier date diesel and petrol vehicles will have to stop entering the fleet. And at that time people need to understand this will be their last petrol or diesel vehicle.

My wife and I own two cars, a Toyota Hybrid which is very fuel efficient and a small Mazda that also uses little fuel although more than the Hybrid. Our next car will be fully electric. It is the least we can do.

But it is impractical to think that as a country we can replace every existing vehicle with a new electric vehicle. For a start the carbon sunk into the manufacturing of a new electric vehicle is too much for the world to sustain. Carbon neutrality has to mean carbon neutrality from all sources, manufacturing as well as transport.

And this is why it is vital that we rebuild our cities so that car dependance is reduced. The big Asian cities have done it. They have high densities and prodigious public transport systems, particularly in Tokyo and the larger Chinese cities.

Auckland needs to do the same. The City Rail Link should have been started years ago. Light rail to the airport is a no brainer, as is light rail on the North Western motorway and conversion of the North Shore Busway into a light rail line cannot be far away.

And we need to get on and build walkways and cycleways. If we have to cancel a couple of big motorway projects to do so then we should do it. As an example Penlink will cost in the vicinity of $315 million. A lot of walkways and cycleways could be built for that amount.

Even the Herald’s Heather Du Plessis Allan is urging the Government to be braver. She appears to have had a change of heart. Last September she was saying that belief in Climate Change had become a religion and wondered what the problem was if some people don’t want to stop driving the gas guzzlers or want to keep eating red meat. Then a couple of weeks later she thought that the climate change “frenzy” was terrifying children and she expressed cynicism about “how organic” this youth-led movement is.

But she has recently chided the Government and asked it to be as brave as Boris Johnson in the UK. It is good to see that Heather now realises we are in the middle of a crisis.

She claims that the Government is a “more crappy” version of National. That is really unfair. National did its best to undermine the Emissions Trading Scheme that was introduced by the last Labour Government, dithered and held back on the City Rail Link as long as it could, and dithered for a decade on making the brave decisions relating to electricity production.

She also does not mention NZ First once. The last time I checked they were a part of the Government, and unfortunately, something on a hand brake on Labour’s and the Green’s more progressive ambitions.

But she is right. If we are going to be carbon neutral then we need to have a discussion on the end of petrol and diesel vehicles entering the fleet and what we will do instead.

If we are to become carbon neutral then at a date in the not distant future we will need to stop petrol and diesel cars from coming into the car fleet. Boris Johnson’s (yes you are reading this right) just announced the date for the UK as 2035. New Zealand needs to do the same.

Reprinted from gregpresland.com.

36 comments on “The end of petrol driven cars ”

  1. alwyn 1

    "And we need to get on and build walkways and cycleways. If we have to cancel a couple of big motorway projects to do so then we should do it. As an example Penlink will cost in the vicinity of $315 million. A lot of walkways and cycleways could be built for that amount."

    Hmm. I think you should have a look at what these things cost when under the supervision of your mates in the CoL. $315 million won't even build the SkyPath (is that the name?) to be hung from the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The latest estimate for that single walkway/cycleway, which must be all of 3 km long, is already far more than that at an estimated cost of $360 million. $315 million isn't going to build lots of walkways and cycleways is it if Phil Twyford has anything to do with it?

    See "Work on the SkyPath for Auckland's Harbour Bridge is also confirmed – a walking and cycling link between Westhaven and the North Shore. The project will cost $360m and is due to start next year."

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12304150

  2. Tony Veitch (not etc.) 2

    If I were a rich man (God forbid) with money hidden in various places around the house just waiting for an opportunity to increase itself (which is what money is meant to do, isn't it?) I'd be investing in an electric 'refuelling' station with cafe attached.

    You know, stop to charge the battery and have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. Break your journey, safer travelling and so on.

    No doubt the petrol stations will morph into such establishments in time.

  3. Andre 3

    Long before the elimination of petrol and diesel vehicles happens, the way we pay for roads needs to be put on a more rational and fairer basis.

    At the moment, there are wild discrepancies between what a road user pays, and the cost burden that user puts on the roading network. Those discrepancies carry over into ACC funding as well.

    Micky, your family's frugal petrol vehicles and my little nana's shopping trolley pay into the roading network at around $0.04/km through the petrol excise tax. Were they diesel powered, the lightest RUC class is $0.072/km. I understand that sometime in 2021, electric vehicles will also be required to pay RUCs at this rate.

    I have yet to find details of the government's cost allocation model for sharing the cost of the road network between light and heavy vehicles. But the relatively low increase in RUC rate for heavier vehicles (significantly less than the fourth power model commonly accepted for wear and damage related attributable to weight), coupled with the demands from the trucking industry for gentler grades and bends, makes it seem the trucking industry is indeed getting a significant hidden subsidy.

    Then there's the thorny question of congestion pricing…

    • Graeme 3.1

      Light EV RUCs and ACC levies could easily be paid at refuel as they are now. I'm presuming the electricity supplier knows, or could know, when an EV is plugged in and all the details of that EV, so a simple matter to tack on the charges and pass them on to the State. Might get trickier for self suppliers with solar of wind generation but most of them would be connected to a network somehow.

      The subsidy of heavy vehicles' road usage cost also morphs into a subsidy of consumers. Good luck untwining that Gordian Knot and coming out intact.

      • Andre 3.1.1

        At the moment, smart meters only communicate gross electricity consumption in half-hourly increments, and AFAIK don't have capabilities to communicate anything more than that. So without a meter upgrade, they would have to infer a car getting plugged in by a massive load getting switched on then off.

        But most people could quite happily just plug in and charge every night or every other night from a regular 240V 10 amp outlet. Dunno how an electricity company could reliably detect that from current smart meters. So there would need to be explicit new electrickery installed to tell the power company when and how much power is being used for charging EVs. Probably in the EV, so it's not bypassed just by plugging into a different outlet.

      • Andre 3.1.2

        On further reflection, a lot of modern cars have fairly complete logging which probably includes location at all times. Teslas certainly do. Hell, even Google or Apple know where a large proportion of the western population is right now and where they've been in the last few years, thanks to phones.

        So technically the easiest solution is position tracking all vehicles. Privacy advocates will howl to the moon. But personally I don't have a problem with the idea that if someone wants the privilege of driving on public roads, then one of the conditions for access is supplying the road authorities with position data from your vehicle at all times.

        Then fairly applying road use charges and congestion charges becomes much easier.

  4. Billy 4

    I read somewhere that this plan by the UK would require double the amount of cobalt than is produced globally, annually, to implement. I don’t have time to find the reference.

    Certainly, cobalt mines are massive producers of CO2 and highly dependent on slave labour, child labour etc.

    I hope a replacement can be found. As they stand or roll, rather, I don’t see electric vehicles as particularly ethical or good for the environment.

    • Andre 4.1

      Tesla are certainly working hard on eliminating cobalt from their batteries.

      Lithium sulphur batteries look to be a huge jump in battery performance if the problems causing low cycle life can get resolved. As I understand it, lithium sulphur batteries don't use cobalt or any other hard to find and nasty to extract materials.

      Researchers are also working hard on alternatives to lithium for batteries, such as potassium. As I understand it, the most promising potassium batteries don't use cobalt, but I'm not sure if they don't need something else that's as problematic as cobalt.

      • Billy 4.1.1

        Yeah. Ultimately, this push could drive seabed mining. No doubt some persons have invested accordingly.

        I've seen open cast mines in third world countries. And batteries have a limited life.

        There are more cycle lanes in Christchurch and around the place. But Christchurch, and the rest of the country, is still built for the motorcar.

        Surely some sort of biodiesel is preferable to rare earth minerals, especially ocean mined rare earth minerals? The combustion engine is a pretty wonderful invention and you can keep them going for 100 years or more if you want to…

        The City of London will have bought up shares in deep sea mining companies I bet. What a win-win…

        Will read up on Lithium Sulfur and see how clean it really is. Thanks for the links.

        Big business often drives these environmental changes. Well, it does. I know because I have had work where I have seen that. It’s not conspiratorial. Business people don’t want to f*** the world, but they primarily want to make money in their lifetimes.

        • Andre 4.1.1.1

          Biodiesel from terrestrial plants is really really inefficient at converting incoming solar energy to useful mechanical energy. The only use I see for it in our future is where the high energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels is absolutely critical to the application. That really just means long haul aviation. For anything land based, electrification makes much more sense and uses much less land to harvest the energy. Maybe that will change if biofuel from engineered algae becomes a thing.

          Rare earths get a lot of publicity in the tech revolution. (Cobalt is not a rare earth, BTW). But rare earths generally aren't strictly necessary for a lot of applications, they just improve the efficiency and allow downsizing some motors and generators. Indeed, Tesla Model S and X use induction motors don't use any rare earths. But for the Model 3, they have gone to a motor design that uses a tiny amount of rare earths that gives the motors a truly astonishing efficiency and downsizing benefit.

          There's a lot of interesting R&D work being done on better motors that are ever more compact and use less material. Or could grow in size a little bit and sacrifice a little bit of efficiency and compactness for the sake of eliminating rare earths.

          For sure there's downsides to electric vehicles. Most of those involved in the industry are well aware of the downsides, and many of them are working hard to reduce, mitigate and eliminate whatever downsides they can. But even at the current state of tech development, electric vehicles are far less damaging than internal combustion engines that unavoidably heat our planet.

          • Billy 4.1.1.1.1

            Is the CO2 used in producing / extracting the minerals required for batteries like cobalt and other minerals factored into these equations, especially given batteries have a limited shelf-life? I'm not sure it always is. But you seem quite well-informed.

            I agree that we are better off going for whatever is most energy efficient, in light of what options seem available to us, at this juncture in history. Hope we get there in time.

            I know I’ve got a lot of learning to do in respect of climate science. I have been putting off reading the papers, etc, because it’s a massive investment of time to do properly. I’ll make more of an effort.

            Time spent in the garden vs reading papers vs everything else, I guess. I’ll track down some good energy / climate podcasts and see if I can’t be more efficient with my time that way. Cheers and thanks.

            • Andre 4.1.1.1.1.1

              The embodied emissions in battery production mostly comes down to the emissions of the energy sources used for the production. Even things like the fossil-fuelled vehicles that are still predominantly used are relatively simple to electrify. Then a lot of the refining processes use electricity – if it's coal-fired electricity then there's a lot of embodied emissions in the final product, if the electricity source is clean, then the embodied emissions are relatively low.

              Vaguely recalling an article from a while back, if an electric vehicle is made using clean electricity, then the embodied emissions in producing that vehicle are of the order of one to two tonnes CO2, mostly from the coal in steel smelting and the carbon anodes in aluminium smelting. This is a bit higher than for producing an ICE vehicle. If the electricity for charging the EV is clean, then the EV has total life emissions lower than an ICEV inside a year. But if the electricity used to produce and charge the EV is from coal, then it's of the order of 10 years of average use before the EV is lower lifetime emissions than an ICEV.

              Studies I've seen of energy and emissions involved in end-of-life recycling the batteries suggest it's very small compared to production and use.

              That's without considering that most batteries that are not longer up to scratch for EV use are still suitable for quite a long life in stationary energy storage applications before they would need to go to the recycler. I recently read an article about on of the chains of EV chargers in Europe of North America incorporating used EV batteries into their charging stations to enable higher charging rates without being so demanding on the local grid.

              A lot of the bad press about EV battery life is due to Nissan going cheap on Leaf batteries and not including thermal management. Tesla and BMW included battery cooling and heating, and are getting much fewer battery degradation issues. Getting hot while charging shortens battery life, especially when charging at high rates. Batteries don't like supplying lots of power when they are very cold. Spending a lot of time at maximum theoretical capacity or near zero capacity shortens battery life (if you want to maximise your cell phone battery life, try to keep it between 30% and 80% charge), Nissan apparently allowed charging and discharging to very near theoretical limits, other manufacturers were more conservative and reserved capacity to help improve battery life.

              • Billy

                I appreciate this, thank you, Andre. I'll read further into it.

                Some of my friends refuse to drive. Of course, that means I am the one to drive them to the garden centre. Still, we’re doubling up, I suppose. Being mindful of our energy usage is the best we can do in the circumstances.

              • RedLogix

                Just to extend your comment a bit Andre ; while the mining industry historically has a sorry legacy, the big modern operators are very aware of the need to lift their game in terms of what they call social license to operate.

                It was my observation that many of the younger generations of engineers in the industry are keen to implement economically rational opportunities to reduce their environmental footprint. In a mature process industry this is often where the smart career moves are to be found.

  5. Wayne 5

    You are wrong about cancelling the roading projects the government has just announced. The advantage of fast and efficient road links is that drivers actually use less energy, as indeed do public transport operators on the same roads.

    New Zealand is not Asia. Our cities will never have that level of density. Most unban dwellers will still need cars. Even in Europe and the developed parts of Asia, most households have a car.

    You are also wrong about light rail. We would be way better expanding the existing rail system, Our rail gauge is virtually light rail anyway. Rather than have two different rail transport systems, we should expand the existing system. Maybe it might mean getting lighter units than the existing units. So turn the northern busway into rail, and link it with the rest of the rail system with a tunnel under the harbour.

    As for the basic premise of the article, yes. Ban importation of petrol and diesel light vehicle around 2035. Plug in hybrids might be an exception.

    Long distance trucks will be a problem. As yet there are no long range heavy trucks in the market. And New Zealand needs trucks. For instance you will never get rail to all our farms and rural communities. I know the Greens love rail, but the reality is that even an expanded rail system will not be able to shift most goods.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      Our rail gauge is virtually light rail anyway.

      On that point I have to totally agree; introducing a second incompatible rail standard makes no engineering or operational sense whatsoever. It just ensures that at some time 20 to 30 years into the future the asset will become stranded and subsequently scrapped.

  6. Sabine 6

    The Government has set us a strong challenge, for our country to become carbon neutral by 2050.

    Yeah, that sounds like a right challenge. Mind, quite a few of us won't be around to laugh out loud when that date comes around and we are still not there yet.

  7. weka 7

    Great to see discussion of the need to think more creatively than just replacing the car fleet. I can't imagine yet what will happen in rural areas where large scale public transport seems economically unviable. Maybe central govt subsidises this. If we had any sense we'd be taxing tourism to pay for it while that market is still a go. Or maybe we relocalise economies and don't have to travel or transport so much. Wayne's point above about trucks makes sense, but how much long haul is just from poor supply line design. Just looking at food alone, if we were relying more on localised food that would solve a chunk of transport problems.

  8. Ad 8

    There doesn't seem to be a lot of thought put into what central government can do in terms of our fleet. It's well due for the Ministers to really tell NZTA what it needs in terms of efficiency.

    The New Zealand government could propose to regulate emissions from all vehicles right down to EU or Californian standards. That would be done through NZTA Warrant Of Fitness requirements. That would be a very strong signal that the environmental impact of the entire fleet must decrease, and would mean diesel imports for small vehicles would massively decrease.

    The New Zealand Government could also require that only vehicles aged less than 10 years can be imported. Ban the rest from coming in. For a small while that would mean a roaring internal trade in crap cars as we try to keep the old ones going. But it wouldn't last.

    A further step after that is to require a hefty annual fee for all warranted vehicles 10 years or older. They would pay that through the RUC. This would of course cause the market for second hand cars to totally crash, but it would force the question of older people in particular: do they really need to continue with car ownership?

    A further step in time is that vehicles 10 years or older don’t get Warrants of Fitness at all, other than by permitted exception. They become fully regulated, similar to weapons.

    One of the reasons this is hard is because our average fleet is really old because we have let generations of cheap imports flood in, which has been great for poor people and immigrants. So car fleet age regulation hurts Labour supports more than any other.

    Australia has done it just fine, and we should be more than the country where old Toyotas go to die.

    But the big step is the one National is proposing to replace all the existing petrol taxes: RUC for all. This means the more you drive, the more you pay, very directly. I don't see any reason this could be a cross-Parliament agreement. It would be a massive lever.

    Too any focus on fleet changes as asset management. They need to drive fuel efficiency down and down through regulation: that's the big undercooked story of transport.

    • Craig H 8.1

      One of the bonuses of petrol excise tax is that it acts as a carbon tax, so is actually better just to raise that more to encourage using more efficient cars in the meantime.

    • Graeme 8.2

      All of those ideas are great if the country has a vehicle manufacturing industry, because they encourage people to buy new cars and stimulate / subsidise the manufacture. Different story if the country has to import all it's vehicles. Will be interesting to see what happens in Australia, I'm picking the old Holdens and Falcons will carry on for a very long time because they are better suited Australian conditions.

      With your income, spending $30K+ every 5-10 years on a new car may be achievable, for most New Zealanders that's pie in the sky stuff, all they can afford is a $5-10K banger that better last a while. If we want to improve fleet efficiency we need to be able to afford better vehicles, or make some quantum leaps in public transport availability and affordability.

      • the other pat 8.2.1

        exactly and the fact that there are large amounts of people who don't live in cities and live outside main areas…many forced there by the price of real estate AND they have less disposable income because its being spent on fuel.

    • Paul Campbell 8.3

      I lived in California for 20 years, no WoF, but a yearly smog test, it's long past time we did the same and got the worst of the vehicles off of the road Dunedin diesel buses, I'm talking about you in particular).

      We bought a 2nd hand Leaf a month or so ago, stupidly cheap to run, we haven't charged it anywhere other than our garage, happily charges over night, we'll likely switch to the Meridian scheme that offers 1/2 price electricity 9pm-7am, it will cost even less and charging it wont involve any coal/gas peaker power.

      • pat 8.3.1

        until 2021…then RUC
        Currently the average petrol user pays around $4.60 per 1000 k….that RUC is going to rise

        • Paul Campbell 8.3.1.1

          I don't have a problem with paying my share (ACC too).

          I do think that things like lowering the RUC to encourage people to convert (or in California allowing electric cars into car pool lanes) is a good thing, I don't mind taxing petrol or diesel to reduce carbon emissions using whatever excuse we can make – much as we tax cigarettes to reduce the costs to society from their use.

          As mentioned above trucks cause far more costs maintaining roads than cars – car RUCs should be going down a lot, those for trucks should be going up a lot – hopefully pushing freight onto rail and making our roads require less maintenance and last longer.

          Also remember the only reason what we have RUCs for diesel today is because farmers couldn't be trusted to not fill up their cars with tax-free agricultural diesel.

          • pat 8.3.1.1.1

            while agreeing cars (diesel) are comparatively overcharged for RUC (and my above number re excise should say 46.00 per 1000km) the fact is that as the ICE fleet decreases , and probably also total kms travelled by private vehicles the funding model will have to change to reflect that so the private vehicles are going to incur higher usage costs regardless of the method of funding

            • Paul Campbell 8.3.1.1.1.1

              I mostly agree, but I think that much of that can be mitigated by charging trucks their true road costs (something closer to 1000 times what a car is charged, depending on the truck's weight), as I mentioned above that's likely to move truck freight to rail which will reduce the cost of maintaining roads because they last longer.

              Of course charging trucks their true costs is going to lead to more angry truckies blowing smoke, it's a bit of a political issue that the government of the day is going to have to weather b y laying down the law and telling them that they have to pay the full costs of driving their trucks and to not depend on everyone else subsising them

              • pat

                ultimately the cost is borne by society as a whole and there will always be an element of cross subsidisation, the debate will only ever be about degree. How do we determine benefit?

                If trucking is charged its 'true' cost then it will be end user that pays the cost, not the trucking firms in any case and there are structural costs to industry in relation to exports that need to be considered. As noted in earlier comment as the cost increases the impact falls upon a diminishing pool creating a downward spiral.

                It is a difficult problem as the reality is we cannot afford the maintenance of the existing infrastructure let alone an expanded network.

                • Paul Campbell

                  Well having trucking companies no longer externalising many of their costs allows us to have a more efficient transport system – a lot of stuff we send long distance today will likely end up going by rail – overall we'll all pay less (while end users may pay more and random taxpayers less, overall we'll gain efficiency and in total should be paying less)

  9. Lucy 9

    So your plan require that people like me remain housebound for the foreseeable future. I am in a wheelchair and use taxis. Currently a wheelchair taxi costs a minimum of $80k with subsidies. If these are replaced by EV's it will be uneconomic to buy a van and modify it for same or similar fares so taxi vans will disappear. Buses in Christchurch do not cater to the needs of the people who could use them – as the routes are too long and so take far too long to traverse the city.

    Cycleways are of no use to us as we can not use them and they make the transition from footpath to road dangerous as there are less curb openings and more cyclists not aware of their surroundings.

    Before we change infrastructure and vehicles we need to redo road rules to reflect changed usage.

  10. Gosman 10

    "My wife and I own two cars…"

    You can stop right there.

    • Andre 10.1

      Owning vehicles is a miniscule part of the problem.

      How much they get used is the overwhelming majority of the problem.

      • In Vino 10.1.1

        True. I own two vehicles, but live alone, so at any time, since I can drive only one, I am altruistically keeping the other vehicle OFF the road.

        I am half-way to sainthood.

        So is Mickeysavage if he and his wife really do own 2 cars each..

  11. peterlepaysan 11

    What happens to the lithium batteries when thy expire?

    I cannot wait for nuclea poered vehiclws to arrive.

  12. A 12

    People can't afford a home and some of them need a car for work. It's unrealistic.

    AND there is the blood cobalt, and shortage of other precious metals needed to make electric cars.

    Hydrogen is our future. At least we don't send poor South African kids down holes they can't breathe in to get that.

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