17 Jan 2024

Changes to road user charges will see EV owners paying more, climate expert says

12:34 pm on 17 January 2024
Electric vehicle shopping.

Photo: RNZ

The government's changes to road user charges will see some EV owners paying twice as much per kilometre as the equivalent petrol vehicle, a climate and energy expert says.

Consultant Christina Hood of Compass Climate said it was fair to start charging EVs to use roads, but the way it was being done would unfairly penalise people buying electric cars.

The difference comes about because EVs (like diesel vehicles) are charged per kilometre, while petrol cars pay tax per litre of fuel. That means very efficient petrol cars can have an advantage over EVs of the same size. Road users charges are set in broad weight groups, so all plug-in electric vehicles weighing under 3.5 tonnes pay the same rate per kilometre regardless of size.

As an example, Hood compared two very similar cars: a new Kia Niro, non plug-in petrol/electric hybrid and the Kia Niro full EV.

She found that on the petrol version, the government collects $39 per 1000km in taxes, based on the car's fuel economy of 4.4litres per 100km and taxes of 89c a litre, including GST.

The fully electric vehicle pays more than $80 per 1000km in road user charges - twice as much as the like-for-like petrol vehicle, she calculated.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown has been contacted via a spokesperson for comment.

The government has said it intends to move petrol cars to the same road user charges system as diesel and electric vehicles, but has not set a date.

Hood said that could work against EVs on the car dealer forecourt in the meantime.

"The type of people who are buying EVs would have otherwise bought a fuel efficient car so that's the comparison you need to make and you need to make it fair between those two."

On Tuesday, the government announced EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles will no longer be exempt from road-user charges as of 1 April.

Owners of light EVs will pay $76 per 1000 kilometres, to match equivalent diesel-powered vehicles.

Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid owners will pay a reduced rate of $53 per 1000km, recognising that they also pay excise duty on their petrol.

Drive Electric chairperson Kirsten Corson told Morning Report the decision alongside losing the EV clean car discount will have a significant impact on sales.

"[It's] disappointing in our bid to hit our Paris Agreement target."

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