Wealthy electric car owners do not deserve special privileges

Wealthy electric car drivers do not deserve special privileges on New Zealand's roads, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who has studied electric cars for over a decade, says:

The National Party wants to allow electric cars to use bus lanes and other high occupancy lanes. This effectively means that wealthy owners of electric cars with one occupant will be able to use lanes reserved for buses with 60 occupants. Wealthy owners of electric cars with one occupant will also be able to use lanes reserved for cars with three occupants. This is madness.”

“Electric cars are roughly twice as expensive as ordinary cars. That’s why the vast majority of electric car owners are corporations or relatively wealthy people who regard their cars as an evironmental fashion statement. National’s policy effectively gives more rights to wealthy people while ordinary people will get less.”

Matthew-Wilson is also critical of plans to provide incentives to electric car buyers.

“The bottom line is this: there are only limited government funds available to improve transport and reduce emissions: the money that goes to subsidise electric cars is money that doesn’t go to subsidising electric trains and buses.”

“The real battle isn’t between petrol cars and electric cars; the battle is between cars and public transport. You can fill the country’s motorways with electric cars and you still have gridlock. By comparison, if the government invests in electric trains and buses, both pollution and congestion will be substantially reduced, so everyone gains.”

Matthew-Wilson also disputes the claim the electric vehicles are ‘emissions-free’.

“In fact, studies have shown that in the USEurope and in China, producing an electric vehicle creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than producing an equivalent petrol-powered vehicle. An electric car has to do quite a high mileage before the increased emissions from manufacture are balanced by the reduced emissions during use. So, electric cars are less polluting once they reach high mileages, but more polluting if they don’t travel far.”

“However, there’s a catch: most electric cars are owned by wealthy people who live around crowded cities, so these cars don’t actually travel very far. Until electric cars have driven a great distance, say, 80,000km, they’ll probably be worse, not better for the environment.”

Matthew-Wilson believes that, even without government support, electric cars will naturally begin to take over in the future.

“In five to ten years, the costs of electric cars will drop and their range will increase to the point where they can freely compete with petrol and diesel vehicles.

“In the meantime, I see no reason why the government should divert funds from public transport to subsidise car companies and wealthy carbuyers. I also don’t see why wealthy carbuyers should get special rights on the road. Single-occupant electric cars using bus lanes and high occupancy lanes defeats the whole purpose of having these lanes in the first place.”

“We can’t consume our way out of climate change. Rather than increasing the number of cars, New Zealand is perfectly suited to a nationwide train and public transport system powered by renewable energy. That would ease congestion, reduce the number of accidents involving trucks and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“It can take two hours to drive across Auckland. This gridlock isn't caused by a lack of electric or self-driving cars. This gridlock is caused by too many cars sharing too little space. It's that simple. Any transport solution that encourages the further use of cars in congested cities effectively encourages further congestion.”

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• Clive Matthew-Wilson has been actively campaigning on road safety and consumer issues for 25 years. Mentored by engineer Chris Coxon (former technical chair and founding member of the Australian New Car Assessment Program – ANCAP), Matthew-Wilson was the first person to publish crash test results in New Zealand. His research into seatbelt upgrades was awarded by the Australian Police Journal. Matthew-Wilson is a strong supporter of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ rights and has helped shape many major road safety policies in New Zealand.

Clive Matthew-Wilson is equally distrustful of all politicians. He is not affiliated with the Taxpayers’ Union nor any similar body.