Opportunities to cut NZ’s road transport emissions

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 09:40
Climate Change Issues
Energy and Resources

Good morning everyone.

Transitioning to a low carbon economy and making the most of technology are significant themes in both my energy and transport portfolios.

New Zealand faces transport and energy challenges.  We want to continue to grow our economy and help New Zealanders to prosper. This means we need secure and affordable energy, and a transport system that meets people’s needs. At the same time, we have to reduce our carbon emissions.

I believe the potential of energy and fuel efficiency remains largely untapped. In many cases, the main barrier preventing people taking action is a lack of awareness and information.  By increasing awareness we can show that success and economic growth doesn’t have to mean consuming more fuel or more energy.

The time is ripe to embrace change and new technologies, given the international focus on climate change. Over time, sometimes imperceptibly to those not watching closely, new technologies and innovations are transforming everything in transport — and, for that matter, in my other key portfolio of energy.

Electric Vehicles

As many of you know, I’m a great fan of transport technology — particularly electric vehicles, or EVs.

For me the cross-portfolio appeal as Energy, Transport and Associate Climate Change Minister is obvious. EVs offer multiple benefits — including reduced emissions and increased use of locally produced, renewable power.

EECA has today released an information toolkit that provides valuable insight into the total cost of ownership of an EV – I’ll come back to this later but, suffice to say, it shows  electric vehicles have a far smaller climate change impact than traditional vehicles. 

Driving an EV in New Zealand generates 80 percent fewer CO2 emissions than petrol and diesel vehicles. As the renewable proportion of New Zealand’s electricity continues to grow, the CO2 emissions from an EV will reduce further.

Currently, around 80 percent of our electricity is generated from renewable sources. Even if all vehicles on the road were to be electric, there is enough renewable generation consented to cover this demand.

  • Because of our high percentage of renewable energy, the energy benefits of electric vehicles in New Zealand are greater than in other countries.


  • Combined with this, New Zealand’s 230-volt system and the high proportion of New Zealand homes with off-street parking enable easy overnight charging.


  • And compared to other countries, New Zealanders have a low average commute, with drivers in urban centres clocking up about 22 kilometres a day — a distance the batteries in today’s electric vehicles can handle easily. This is significant, given that roughly 70 percent of New Zealanders live in urban centres.


The Government is currently considering what role we could play in facilitating the uptake of EVs. We are specifically looking at ways to ensure charging infrastructure is developed in a safe and cohesive way, to support the increasing use of electric vehicles. We are also looking at what can be done to address the lack of awareness and misconceptions about electric vehicles.

My officials are working with local government and key business leaders to develop a package of measures to support and encourage the uptake of electric vehicles which we hope to announce by the end of the year.

I’m encouraged to see many New Zealand organisations are already making progress in supporting EV ownership and I firmly believe that it’s the private sector that will ultimately lead this step-change as the world transitions towards a low carbon future.

In May last year, Northpower installed New Zealand’s first electric vehicle rapid charger which can recharge electric vehicles from zero to eighty percent battery capacity in twenty minutes. Northpower has made the rapid charger available to all electric vehicle owners, initially at no cost.

Mighty River Power has announced it will replace 70 percent of its vehicle fleet with electric vehicles before 2018. I congratulate them on this initiative, which sends a signal that electric vehicles are becoming a real choice for vehicle buyers in New Zealand.

The Electricity Networks Association — which represents the 29 companies responsible for electricity distribution around New Zealand — has announced plans for what could lead to a ‘Renewables Highway’, or nationwide network of vehicle charge points.

In September, Air New Zealand launched its new Sustainability Framework, which includes a transition of its fleet of road vehicles and ground equipment to 100 percent electric where feasible.


EECA’s total cost of ownership toolkit

As I mentioned earlier, I am happy to say that today EECA is launching a new online tool to help fleet managers understand the total cost of ownership of new light fleet vehicles – whether EV, hybrid, petrol or diesel.  Whether or not a fleet manager opts for EVs, this will be a valuable tool for assessing the total cost of fleet vehicles, including running costs.

EECA is targeting fleet managers to encourage them to purchase EVs, as around 70 percent of new car purchases in New Zealand are made by businesses for corporate fleets.  This means purchase decisions made by fleet managers have a huge impact on the nature of New Zealand’s overall vehicle fleet. Simply put, the more EVs that are passed on from corporate fleets to the second hand market, the more Kiwis will be able to buy them.

Market research by EECA and the Ministry of Transport shows  47 percent of fleet managers say they don’t know how to compare the running costs of EVs with conventional vehicles — so this tool should prove invaluable.


EECA initiatives

Reducing transport emissions requires a range of innovative measures, of which increasing the use of electric vehicles is just one.

The heavy vehicle sector consumes about 20 per cent of all transport energy - about one billion litres of diesel per annum - and there is potential for fleet operators to save on their fuel use. Yet, many fleet operators are not aware they can make significant savings through fuel efficiency.

EECA is working in partnership with road transport associations to train small to medium-sized heavy transport fleet operators to implement long-term fuel savings plans.  This expands on continued success with their current heavy vehicle fuel efficiency programme.

As we know, heavy vehicles fleets are not the only area of transport where we can make a difference.  Private vehicle owners can also save money and play a role in reducing carbon emissions.

Private vehicles are responsible for about 10 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and increased uptake of fuel efficient tyres presents an opportunity to reduce emissions at a national level.

Using fuel efficient tyres is like saving up to 10 cents a litre every time you drive.  For an average driver that means they can expect to save more than $150 in fuel over the lifetime of the tyres.  But despite these benefits research shows that the majority of vehicle owners are still unaware of them.  

That is why EECA is working in partnership with industry to run an information campaign to increase the level of uptake of these tyres – I’m sure you have seen EECA’s Energy Spot television ads encouraging motorists to think about energy efficient tyres.  One of their major industry partners – Beaurepaires – has also begun advertising efficient tyres.
These EECA initiatives are about providing good information, good incentives, and helping place ourselves and our businesses in an increasingly carbon-conscious world.


Transport technologies

This brings me to intelligent transport system, which are revolutionising the system globally. These technologies offer some of the best prospects for reducing carbon emissions, improving safety and increasing efficiency.

Imagine a world where connected and driverless vehicles are widely used on our roads. If that was to happen, three to four times as many vehicles could use our current road space. That could significantly reduce the need for any further new roads in the future.

I want New Zealand to make the most of these and other transport technologies and the Government has an important role in helping to realise their full benefit here. We are committed to regulation which is flexible enough to accommodate the growth of new technologies.

Transport technology will have an obvious benefit in a city like Auckland. Being a complicated and congested city, the potential for technology to assist Auckland is big. The Government is looking specifically at how transport technology can play a role in solving Auckland’s transport problems, especially technologies that reduce congestion.

Last year, the Government released New Zealand’s Intelligent Transport Systems Technology Action Plan, with a programme of 42 actions that establish the building blocks to enable ITS to work in New Zealand. 


Vehicle and ride sharing

Smartphones and the development of apps have led to the rise of what has been dubbed the sharing or access economy, connecting supply and demand for travellers.

Cityhop,  a self-service car share company, has been in New Zealand since 2007, offering cars for rent by the hour, day or week. Cityhop currently operates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Vehicle sharing services are also emerging overseas, with companies like Zipcar and Car2Go establishing hundreds of thousands of users across Europe and North America. The mobile apps GrabTaxi, GrabCar and GrabBike are providing more transport options for consumers in six countries across South East Asia.

These types of services, and others, will make ride sharing easier to arrange. While New Zealand hasn’t experienced ridesharing like we see overseas, we can expect to see these services grow in New Zealand in the next few years — something the Government is keen to support.

This is why I asked transport officials to review the small passenger services industry earlier this year. The review is considering the appropriate level of regulation for taxis, shuttles, private hire and dial-a-driver services, and other services such as ride sharing and car sharing.

One of the aims of the review is to ensure New Zealand’s regulatory environment is both fit for purpose and flexible enough to accommodate new technologies.

I have outlined some ways that the Government is responding to climate change via the Transport portfolio.

This work will of course continue to evolve, as New Zealand responds to these important issues and changing transport technologies and trends.

Thank you for having me here today.