New Zealand is aiming to double the number of electric vehicles on the road every year for the next five years under a new government plan to cut vehicle emissions.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the plan unveiled Thursday was ambitious and included a wide-ranging package of measures to boost the uptake of electric vehicles.
"It's clear that electric vehicles are the future. A move from petrol and diesel to low-emission transport is a natural evolution, and it is our aim to encourage that switch sooner, rather than later," Bridges said in a statement.
"The benefits of increasing uptake of electric vehicles are far-reaching. They're cheaper to run than petrol or diesel vehicles; they're powered by our abundant renewable electricity supply; and they'll reduce the amount of emissions that come from the country's vehicle fleet."
The package would tackle and remove barriers that had prevented households and business from choosing electric, such as the limited selection of models available, a lack of widespread public charging infrastructure, and lack of awareness about electric vehicles.
It included a target of doubling the number of electric vehicles every year to reach about 64,000 by 2021; exempting electric vehicles from road user charges; proposals to investigate the bulk purchase of electric vehicles in the government and private sectors; and supporting the roll-out of public charging infrastructure.
The package was an important part of the government's work to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector, said Bridges.
"Electric vehicles will maximise New Zealand's renewable advantage, with more than 80 percent of the country's electricity coming from hydro, geothermal and wind. The increased use of electric vehicles will replace petrol and diesel with clean, green, locally produced energy," he said.
However the opposition Green Party said the "lackluster" package failed to make electric cars more affordable and accessible.
"The policy is actually unfair and counterproductive. Those wealthy enough to afford electric vehicles will be exempt from paying to maintain the roads we all drive on, and will be allowed to clog up bus lanes, making congestion worse in our largest cities," Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said in a statement.
The government was refusing to embrace meaningful tax breaks or emissions standards that had led to a high uptake of electric vehicle in places like Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, she said.
In March, New Zealand's most senior environment watchdog threw her weight behind the use of electric vehicles to help combat climate change, saying they were a "no-brainer" for reducing emissions.
"Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles are a big problem and getting worse. Electric cars must be part of our future," said Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.