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Ōtautahi – New York is setting new goals for all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks to be zero-emission models by 2035, joining the state of California in attempting to eliminate gasoline-powered vehicles.

The US government is seeking to promote the sales of electric vehicles to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and help meet global goals to slow human-caused climate change.

So, New Zealand’s pathway to lowering emissions is to join the world by placing maximum tail pipe emissions standards on new to New Zealand  (second hand or newly manufactured vehicles). This is the clean car standards now being implemented at the border.

Most countries have had these standards for newly manufactured cars for quite a number of years and Europe have had emissions standards for existing vehicles too.

Aotearoa has yet to add tail pipe emissions standards to its WoF programme, but it should.

Once there are standards at the border and for the in-country fleet, over time New Zealand can reduce acceptable emissions, ultimately forcing higher emitting vehicles off the road unless acceptably lower drop-in bio-fuels become available.

He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commissionv supported the clean car standard at the border and estimated that by 2028 around 50 percent of light vehicles imported into New Zealand.

Second hand or newly manufactured would be low or no emission vehicles, predominantly battery electric. By around 2032 the commission proposes banning newly imported internal combustion engine light vehicles except in special circumstances.

By 2035, half the light vehicles in New Zealand would still be internal combustion engine cars and while the commission’s consumption of petrol and diesel will have fallen by nearly 66 percent compared with today, Aotearoa will still be consuming around a third of what it consumes today.

It remains to be seen what the government will put in its emissions reduction plan. It has already committed to clean car standards at the border and the feebate scheme to change the relative capital cost based on vehicle emissions profile.

A more aggressive plan would reduce allowed emissions faster on vehicles crossing the border, might disallow depreciation and operating costs of new internal combustion engine cars purchased or owned by businesses, might signal tail pipe emissions standards for the existing fleet from a future date at a given level.

Given New Zealand does not manufacture motor vehicles its pathway looks different from the US.

The decision by a state to ban new may mean newly manufactured in that state or may mean newly registered in that state, whether new off the production line whether manufactured in that state or in another state. It is unlikely to mean people cannot register a second hand petrol / diesel engine vehicle in that state.