Transport accounts for 21% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions and has increased by 100% from 1990 to 2018. This is why electric vehicles are an important piece of the puzzle in reducing our carbon emissions and helping to fight climate change. The more internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles taken off the road and replaced with EVs the better our air quality will get. Moreover, the switch to electric has a fair few other benefits for our country's economy and its people too, not just the environment.
Firstly, the improved air quality will help to reduce cases of lung & heart disease, asthma and many other respiratory issues. This will in turn mean less people are admitted to the hospital for these medical issues, allowing medical funding to be redistributed to areas that need more assistance. Sadly the city planning in most countries around the world has low income suburbs often backed right onto main highways, exposing them to the emissions of thousands of vehicles each day. Studies in America have shown that those living within 300-500m of a busy road will have severe effects on their health due to traffic pollution. Children are the most affected with many experiencing asthma attacks. Adults also become more likely to develop dementia if they live within 300m of a busy road with prolonged exposure. The American Lung Association provides further information on this and it's rather scary to read. This alone should be enough reason to remove vehicles with toxic emissions from our roads.
Secondly, switching to EVs means a newer, smarter fleet of vehicles that benefits people again through increased safety. Safer, smart cars reduce injuries and death from accidents so fewer Kiwi’s end up in hospital. Most EVs include the tech to be able to judge the distance from other vehicles or objects and will brake to avoid collision. Often this is before us, as drivers, have realised and reacted. Even if a crash does occur, the way that EVs are built makes them once again safer than their ICE counterparts. The low centre of gravity created by the batteries being located at the bottom of the car also means that they are less likely to roll in an accident. Based on the ANCAP safety ratings, used here in NZ and in Australia, all BEV and PHEV vehicles tested gained a 5 star rating. When compared to conventional fuel types, the EVs prevailed when it came to pedestrian safety and safety assistance technologies, whilst continuing to provide a very high level of safety for all passengers. With EV pioneers Tesla setting the standard for EVs to be packed with tech it seems to have created a flow on effect for competitors to also make the most of the technology available for better safety, as well as user experience.
One of the other great things for EV owners is the reduced outgoings for maintenance. Due to the lack of moving parts there is less to wear out and need replacing in an EV. The tyres are essentially the only recurring cost for the vehicle. On top of the fuel savings it makes owning an EV much cheaper than an ICE vehicle. Furthermore, until March 2024 EVs are also exempt from road user charges (RUC) so this is an added saving to leverage while you can! This also allows those already with an EV to continue to reap the financial benefits. With the Clean Car Discount offering up to $8,625 in rebate, why not save some money if tossing up between the EV and ICE options at the dealers!
Like any new technology there is a period of hesitation as people's behaviours adapt. However, we can see that EVs are a win-win for all members of society, and something that will be in our futures no matter what. Businesses will likely begin to lead the charge through electrifying their fleets, making them more sustainable companies whilst reducing their costs. However, the government putting a big emphasis on the shift of their own fleet of 13,000+ vehicles to electric will also help ease the fear of many by showing their commitment to the change. In both instances it will be good to see these shifts to electric sooner rather than later as it allows more used EVs to trickle into the market in the coming years. As the majority of Kiwi’s buy second hand this will really help NZ to become carbon neutral within the 2050 goals.