Clean cars

Cleaning up our vehicle fleet is a vital step towards doing our bit to combat climate change. There’s currently a debate happening in Britain about how to go about this. Some of the options:

  • Have a compulsory traffic light labelling scheme on cars. vehicles would have green, amber or red labels which tell you how fuel-efficient a car you intend to buy is. The labels would also give you an estimate of how much you would have to pay on fuel to run the car for a year.
  • Tax vehicles proportional to how fuel-efficient they are. So, owners of high-consumption luxury vehicles would pay a lot; owners of ultra-efficient cars would pay nothing.
  • A variation on the tax differentiation proposal would be to use fees paid by fuel-hungry vehicles to give grants to people who want to buy ultra-clean cars.

The Independent has the full story here (hattip, Andrew).

Jeanette has long argued that once polluting cars are in the country, it’s too late. Rather, you should tackle the problem at source. The mechanism she favours is holding car importers to an average fuel-efficiency standard. So, a car importer could choose to import a whole lot of cars of average efficiency. Or, an importer could choose to import some gas-guzzlers and mitigate that by also importing some very fuel-efficient cars.

18 Comments Posted

  1. Inefficient commuters that use SUVs and such already pay more for petrol of course, but I don’t think that’s enough. I believe that the yearly licensing costs for city vehicles should be broken into three cost tiers. The most expensive (say double current rate) would apply to SUVs but perhaps since some people need these for other than mainly just commuting there could be some exemptions. This higher registration cost would also perhaps apply to bigger cars (3 litres and up), you know the big V8 commodores and such. ‘Normal’ cars would have the same licencing costs and fuel efficient cars, including (efficient) hybrids would be cheaper to licence, effectively being subsidised by SUVs. Also, I think for the time being, electric mopeds which have huge potential to cut pollution and reduce congestion should only have a nomiminal licencing fee to encourage use.

  2. i’ve just tried living in auckland without a car..18 months or in the centre of the city means being at the hub of the public transport network and therefor in the best position to make it work for you..

    but even living there, it sucks, in all ways..service and cost of course being the main culprits..and forget about the a bloody hour or something..?

    the boy playing soccer is what has broken me and sent me back to a car..

    winter weeknight practices..then bussing home? all over all became too much…

    i would agree with pauls’ comment of an aspect of stueys formula…it is multi-crippling to be in auckland, poor, with no car..

    and far be it from me to query is this a case of do as i say, not as i do..?

    i was very grateful to get a lift home from a green party ‘do’ in sth auckland from stuey, in his van…:)


  3. stuey: what if none of those are avalible to a family? Lack of skill sets would make changing jobs difficult; inability to change work hours and lack of public transport at certain hours – there goes that; lack of work mates in the area to car-pool with; not being able to afford a move and living way to far to consider walk/bike; etc. Plus some of these changes could take considerable time.
    Yeah, it’s not likely that anyone would have all of these barriers to change, but this would still be a burden to low income families, at least in the short-to-med term.

  4. tselwyn said: “What about catalytic converters?”

    Yes, what about cats. They reduce local pollution (unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen) but do not increase overall fuel efficiency. In fact, some studies indicate they may adversely affect fuel consumption, thus increasing CO2 emissions. They are another example of an “end of pipe” solution. Far better to reduce car use, I sold my car in 1991 and have been happily car-free since then.

    and Paul B said: “… an old exercycle hooked up to a generator to charge electric cars …
    Battery powered mopeds. You could charge them up with peddle power while stationary”

    Given that a fit person can continously output approx 100W, and your average car has an engine rated in excess of 30kW, think how long you would need to peddle to provide power for the 1km drive to the shops.
    With the moped you may be closer to a solution, but the ratio of stationary pedalling to actual running time would most likely be unworkable.

    Far better just to use the bike to get yourself directly to where you want to go.

  5. Actually, I’d just take the traffic light system a step towards its logical conclusion. Green has now tax levied. Yellow has a lower rate and red is the full rate. This money then goes to alternative energy research and education for alternative methods of transport and means of reducing use of vehicles (where possible and practical).

  6. I agree with the others that change in the excise duty won’t really have an impact – it will make life harder on the poor and middle class and above will accept it as another Fact Of Life ™.

    If you really want to have an impact, you need to incorporate it in at time of purchase so that it is part of the decision-making process in purchasing the vehicle. I’d suggest that every time a vehicle has ownership transferred in New Zealand of vehicles in a certain class (SUV’s, gas guzzlers etc) – a tax (as a % of transaction price) is made as a disincentive for purchasing. On more efficient cars, there is of course no tax charged. This way you target only the ‘bad’ vehicles, and it is factored in with every vehicle purchase decision. You’d probably want to make it a % of the value of transaction.

  7. yes sock, raising petrol taxes may have the effect of financial hardship for low income families – hence why the Greens support at the same time removing all tax for the first 5000 of income – that would proportionately benefit the low income earners more.

    But it shouldn’t necessarily follow that being forced to drive cars less will make life worse – there are a lot of choices that people can make, such as car-sharing, walking, cycling, public transport, moving closer to work/school, changing work/school, even driving in a fuel efficient manner. Only people who refuse to change will suffer.

  8. I was thinking about using, say, an old exercycle hooked up to a generator to charge electric cars, which seems really redundant. But, something came to me:

    Battery powered mopeds. You could charge them up with peddle power while stationary, use peddles if the battery ran out (with the advantage of running in battery mode being speed), run them sortof ‘charge as you go’, even charge them up while waiting at intercetions and scare people.

    I personnaly would like to see stronger controls on emission standards. I get sick of walking in the direction of town and a) seeing a massive brown smog cloud over The Garden City (or is it, ha, ‘Fresh Each Day’ now?) b) breathing in some rather nasty fumes.

    While I’m on a rant, and speaking of rather nasty fumes, they can get rid of exisitng fireplaces on top of banning new installs. I don’t know if it’s just the way fireplaces are or if people don’t know how to use them properly, but there are some STINKY ‘peoples’ out there.

  9. ‘Tis almost funny.

    The Americans are now buying Hybrid cars, and have noted that the USA version of the Toyota Prius doesnt have the EV (electric vehicle) mode (where you charge the thing up from mains and run on purely batteries), only the hybrid mode. So, some environmentally minded folk are modifying their USA spec vehicles to have the EV mode, and are plugging the things in overnight for a charge.

    What brings a certain sense of irony is that these “environmentalists” are driving their cars on coal generated electricity, which is much worse in pulloution terms than the petrol power plant of the Prius itself… Scary what happens when environmentalists get enthusiastic….

  10. Raising petrol taxes won’t make a huge difference to comsumption overall, people love their cars way too much.
    If we all had solar powered houses and electric cars there could be no car taxes, petrol prices or emissions at all *wishful thinking*

  11. Well raising petrol taxes may just have the effct of making life worse for low income families. Most use of cars is for pragmatic purposes such as getting to work. Taking money out of someone’s budget for petrol may very well mean les money for food and health care. The more well off will just pay more for petrol and talk to their accountants about getting it back through tax.

  12. As we all know, fuel prices in general are going to continue to rise anyway, so in my opinion playing with emission standards for cars is akin to discussing deck chair rearrangment on the Titanic.

    Of course, the Green party should know better than looking over at the UK for direction on energy economy…

  13. Just raise the petrol tax. It’s simple and should have the desired effect on driving and car buying behaviour. We want people to think twice before driving 1km down the road to the video shop, even if they have clean cars. NZ already has one of the lowest petrol taxes of the rich countries, and we can afford to pay more. Maybe part of the revenue raised could subsidise tune-ups at warrant time, though I think it would probably be better to use the revenue to introduce a tax-free threshold on income tax.

  14. Phil, I disagree with the ‘at-the-pump’ solution. Hybirds and more efficient cars will use less, that is the discount that they get. If you try to wrap a system more complex around the pump, it will add overhead and costs to manage it.

    Agree that registration may be the best time to teach the financial lesson. People won’t listen or take notice of another few cents added to the excise tax.

    Don’t create a market in fuel-efficient cars, allowing trade-offs. Only the positive reinforcement of efficient cars will do. You can’t create a market otherwise importers will end up trading credits to keep importing gas guzzlers. Look at Kyoto – it promotes European countries partnering with NZ – net result? No overall reduction in outputs (except back to 1990 levels). Markets will not significantly reduce emissions as it is not in their best interest.

  15. Yes, I’m with Phil on this one.. however a tiered tax should also reflect environmental effects apart from pollution:
    – additional load on infrastructure: roads, parking spaces
    – inconvenience to other road users

    It’s bizarre that it currently costs me more to license my motorbike (due to ACC levies) than it does to register a large SUV!

  16. no, i don’t like jeanettes’ idea at relys on an easily manipulated beaurocratic structure of sorts to administer/oversee/control this system..i feel there is something distasteful in allowing trade-offs/rewards of bringing in some dirty vehicles because you have brought in some cleaner ones..

    i feel the same way about all pollution credits..they suck..and just enable problems to continue..the idea of new zealand selling it’s environmental credits to a dirtier country not only sucks but blows imho..

    why not just hit them at registration fees..grade vehicles ..with serious cost discrepancies between say a hybrid and a deisel suv

    further down the track cars could have type id’s that could acknowledge/reward cleaner car drivers at the petrol pump in the tax they pay on their fuel..suv drivers would pay the highest tax rates on their fuel at the pump..none of this is rocket science..

    with all these things you need a carrot and a stick..preferably financial for both..


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