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NZ can't wait for petrol to hit $4 a litre

12 April 2006

New Zealand can't wait for petrol to hit $4 a litre to make climate friendly cars price competitive New Zealand shouldn't have to wait until petrol prices hit $4 a litre before doing something to help motorists buy cars using up to 50% less fuel and also producing low emissions.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says a hybrid company car only competes economically against a standard 1.8 litre one when petrol hits $4 a litre, or travels 80,000 a year. New Zealanders need help to bridge the price gap and make our air cleaner.

The business organisation wants the Government to bring in cash grants of up to $3000 for new fuel efficient-low emission cars and up to $1000 for imported cars which are fuel efficient and have low emissions.

This would make the climate friendly vehicles competitive – and help the country move more quickly to quit its fleet of ageing gas guzzling polluters.

The grants would also help lower the Government's billion dollar Kyoto protocol emissions bill by launching a major practicable assault on the second largest green house gas source in the country.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the current rush to buy smaller cars is to be welcomed – but may not cut green house gas emissions by much unless our existing stock of high-emission cars is phased off the road.

"Most Kiwis don't realise our vehicle fleet is one of the oldest in the world. The average age of our passenger fleet is 11.7 years. That compares with 10.1 years in Australia and only 6.3 years in the UK. On top of that we own more cars per head than most other countries in the world: 580 per 1000 people. Even the United States has only 481 per 1000.

"As petrol prices hit new highs, we're in danger of shunting a lot of people into dirty little cars, rather than quickly renewing the fleet with new and used imported cars which are fuel efficient – and have low emissions," Mr Neilson says. "As the price of older gas guzzlers fall, poorer families buy them and then face high petrol bills for the next 10 years of the car's life.

The Business Council – whose 51 members' $33 billion a year in sales equate to 28% of the country's gross domestic product – wants the Government to introduce cash grants, for new cars and newly registered imports, which are climate friendly.

They include petrol-electric hybrids and a large range of other vehicles.

The council also wants the Government to launch an independent web site giving car buyers information on fuel efficient-low emission vehicle choices. It also wants the most climate friendly cars given stickers allowing them to use bus lanes, and the Prime Minister to lead a campaign asking the CEOs of the country's top 200 companies to consider adding fuel efficient-low emission vehicles to their fleets.

ENDS

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