New Zealand-new electric cars and plug-in hybrids will get cheaper from today, under the Government’s recently unveiled subsidy. Yet one of the most popular and environmentally friendly electric vehicles isn’t eligible: the e-bike.
Biking advocacy group Cycle Action Network wants subsidies to be extended to e-bikes and traditional bicycles, plus safety gear, as well.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said e-bikes were “a fantastic option” to cut carbon, but didn’t commit to incentives. “We’re working through all of the options to meet our emissions-reduction targets.”
Over their full lifetime, an EV’s carbon footprint is 60 per cent smaller than a traditional petrol or diesel car, according to the Climate Change Commission. Yet since they require fewer materials, less lithium and electricity, an e-bike’s overall footprint can be 10 times smaller than an electric car, an independent international study found.
Cycle Action Network member Jill Ford said initiatives that boost cycling address other issues, such as inner-city congestion and poor health from a lack of exercise. “We have one of the highest car ownerships per head in the whole world and we’re also second or third [in the OECD] for obesity. I’m sure they’re linked.”
Ford is a push-bike and e-mountain bike rider. E-bikes are suitable for a range of trips, from the commute to work to the school run, she said, plus cycling removes the stress of arriving in time to find a car park.
Ford thinks the upfront costs – with e-bikes starting from $2000 and push-bikes built for commuting around $700 – is getting in the way. “That is a lot of money if you’re a family living week to week.”
She’d prefer a straight subsidy, like the one being considered by the UK, because she worries a feebate system with additional charges on large cars could cause “yet more bike-lash”. But these subsidies could reduce the negative health impacts of inactivity by millions of dollars, she added.
Minister Wood believes the cost of e-bikes is less of a barrier, compared to EVs. “There’s plenty of evidence of huge uptake of them at the moment.”
E-bikes are already the most popular electric vehicle – more than 47,000 were imported last year, more than the total number of electric cars on the road. In 2019, 65,000 e-bikes and scooters arrived in the country.
The transport policies in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, to be released before the end of the year, will consider health benefits, Wood said.
In its advice, the Climate Change Commission recommends a suite of policies to boost cycling, as well as walking and public transport. E-bike subsidies didn’t make the cut.
Commission transport team leader Alexandra Aimer-Seton agrees e-bikes – which make longer and hillier journeys easier – will play an important role in reducing emissions.
“For low-income communities, the price is 100 per cent going to be a barrier and low-income communities are often some of the people who can benefit the most from technologies like e-bikes,” she said.
But the data indicates the country must make cycling safe with dedicated infrastructure first, she added. This was the focus of the commission’s recommendations. “If people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to want to get on them.”
How does the EV subsidy work?
Newly imported electric or plug-in hybrid cars will be eligible for a rebate if sold from today onwards. If you’re buying brand new, an electric car will qualify for a payment of $8625 and a plug-in hybrid for $5750. Used imports also qualify, though the payments are smaller: $3450 for a fully electric vehicle and $2300 for a plug-in hybrid.
If the car has already driven on New Zealand roads, it won’t be eligible for the scheme. Cars must cost under $80,000 and receive three or more stars in safety ratings.
This cash won’t be paid to the dealer. The owner will need to register the sale online and the payment will be made directly.
The straight subsidy will last for a maximum for six months, though could run out sooner. There’s a limited pot of money available, and if demand outstrips this amount, some new EV owners will miss out.
In 2022, a more complicated system of rebates and fees (which is intended to balance each other out) will replace the subsidy. The process to claim a rebate will remain the same. Fees for more-polluting vehicles will need to be paid when the car is first registered.
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