NZ Election 2020: National would free electric vehicles of road user charges until 2023, let them use bus lanes

The National Party would free electric vehicles (EVs) of road user charges until at least 2023 and wants to let them use bus lanes, if elected to power in October. 

National leader Judith Collins said on Friday EVs would also be exempt from fringe tax - a tax on benefits that employees receive - to encourage fleet uptake, and a target would be set to have 80,000 EVs on New Zealand roads by 2023. 

"We're committed to addressing the issue of our transport emissions in a practical and effective way. This ambitious plan will make EVs cheaper and easier to own without unfairly taxing Kiwis," Collins said in Auckland. 

The Government looked set to adopt the Green Party's Clean Car Discount and Standard, a two-pronged scheme to encourage people to purchase more electric vehicles and fewer fossil-fuel cars, but it was blocked by New Zealand First.  

The 'feebate' scheme floated by the Government would have seen users of larger vehicles like utes and SUVs pay a tax to subsidise others. But National says it was "poorly targeted" with most of the money going to drivers of smaller petrol cars rather than EVs.

National would introduce a new EV licence plate that would allow them to use bus lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. It would be implemented "immediately" on state highways and National would work with councils to roll it out. 

The exemption on fringe tax would be introduced because National says a third of new vehicle purchases in New Zealand are company fleet purchases and it wants to encourage businesses to adopt EVs. 

National also wants to make the Government's fleet electric because as of June 14, just 108 cars in its fleet of 15,000 were electric, despite Labour's coalition agreement with NZ First aiming for the Government's vehicle fleet to become emissions-free by 2025/26.

"Despite promising to electrify the Government fleet by 2025, Labour has not even achieved one percent of its target," said National's associate environment spokesperson Erica Stanford. 

National estimates its EV package to cost $93 million over four years, which includes $55 million over four years in lower revenue from exempting electric vehicles from fringe benefits tax, and $38 million over four years in electrifying the Government fleet.

Labour rolled out its energy policy on Thursday which included an aim to accelerate the uptake of low emission vehicles by progressively increasing funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. 

The fund offers $6 million a year to co-fund projects in areas where commercial returns aren't yet strong enough to justify full private investment and to date, 163 projects have been approved by $27 million in Government funding. 

The fund has supported trials of electric trucks and buses, vehicle-to-home charging systems, and had enabled more than 100 electric vehicle chargers to be rolled out across New Zealand. 

Labour also wants to introduce a vehicle fuel efficiency standard, which would only apply to the new and used vehicles entering New Zealand and not the re-sale of existing ones, which account for 74 percent of annual vehicle sales. 

The Ministry of Transport estimates that the clean car standard would result in average fuel savings for families of $6810 per vehicle over its lifetime. Labour estimates it would cost about $30 million over four years to establish the regulations. 

The Government disbanded the industry group created in 2016 to persuade more people to buy electric vehicles in July, saying electric vehicles were becoming mainstream and that the group was no longer needed.  

Electric vehicles only make about 0.3 percent of New Zealand's vehicle fleet.