Government promises 'decent' incentives for electric cars

The Government will soon offer incentives to New Zealanders looking to purchase electric vehicles, to move people away from traditional cars that burn fossil fuels. 

"What we're trying to do is get a package that incentivises your middle class people to be able to do that, but also ensures that low income families aren't left behind," Climate Change Minister James Shaw told The AM Show. 

New Zealand now has around 10,000 electric vehicles, compared to just 250 five years ago, so there is an "exponential growth rate," Mr Shaw says. But that's only a quarter of one percent (0.25 percent) of the total vehicles on the roads. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be the keynote speaker at United Nations Climate Week in New York this week where she will promote New Zealand's initiatives around curbing climate change. Mr Shaw said she will discuss how "countries dragging the chain need to get their act together."

But New Zealand is far from exemplary in the area. The country's CO2 emissions are increasing, according to the Ministry of Environment, and predictions point to New Zealand not being able to meet its 2030 and 2050 targets. 

"New Zealand's emissions have been going up rather than down, and like every other country in the world, we've got to bend the curve, and the next ten years is going to be critical," said Mr Shaw. 

He said the Government has been "putting together a package of incentives," but did not go into any financial detail, saying the Government hasn't "made those decisions yet". 

The main issue the Government faces, he said, is that New Zealanders are used to buying cheap second-hand vehicles from Japan, so the Government has so make sure the incentives are good enough to attract low-income households. 

New Zealand is one of only a handful of developed countries without vehicle emission standards, and the Productivity Commission has pointed to the risk of New Zealand becoming a dumping ground for heavy, polluting vehicles that other countries won't buy. 

Ms Shaw told Newshub earlier this month that one idea the Government is looking at is introducing a 'feebate' scheme, in which high emission vehicles would incur a fee, while lower emission vehicles would receive a rebate.

In the US, electric vehicle owners get up to $11,000, and it's around the same for those in the UK. In Spain, owners get up to $13,000, while Hungarian electric vehicle owners are eligible for 21 percent of the vehicle's purchase price.