Government abandons electric vehicle target for public service fleet
There are 15,473 vehicles in the government fleet and only 78 are electric.
When the coalition Government came into power in late 2017, the agreement between Labour and New Zealand First stipulated that the entire fleet would be emissions-free by mid-2025, “where practicable”.
Although it was repeated as recently as June, that goal has been quietly revised to a commitment that, after mid-2025, all new vehicles entering the fleet will be emissions-free.
Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson criticised the decision.
“The Government’s quiet back down on electrifying its vehicle fleet is surprising and incredibly disappointing,” she said.
“This is a climate emergency and the Government should be leading by example to cut our dependence on the dirty fuels driving this crisis.”
Making the government fleet fully emissions-free would have been a daunting task, even with the “where practicable” caveat. The Government’s progress so far has been abysmal.
Out of around 15,000 vehicles, less than half of a per cent of the Government’s fleet is electric.
This has been the case for at least the past nine months, according to data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Electric vehicles have trickled into the fleet at a snail’s pace.
In the third quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year, there were 71 electric vehicles. The next quarter, that number rose to 73 and has now reached 78.
In the most recent quarter, in addition to adding five electric vehicles, the Government added a net of 514 non-electric vehicles.
Were the Government to have attempted to maintain the same number of vehicles in the fleet, it would have had to cycle in 226 electric cars every month beginning next month in order to meet its target.
Under National, the government committed to making a third of its fleet electric or hybrid by 2021.
While there are slightly more hybrid vehicles in the fleet – 514 in the most recent quarter – this short deadline would have been equally difficult to achieve.
If the fleet were to remain the same size, the Government would have had to replace 326 fossil fuel vehicles with hybrids or electrics every single month between November 2019 and December 2020.
Government quietly dropped commitment
The Government’s altered commitment was highlighted as part of its Climate Action Plan in August.
The August announcement didn’t note that the commitment represented a drawback from an earlier, stronger goal.
“The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement is the high level aim our Government is working towards. The initiative signed off by Cabinet reflects what is practicable and still meets the Government’s aims,” Twyford said in a statement.
Twyford maintained that “virtually all government vehicles where practicable will be emissions free by 2025/26”.
“There will always be some cases where emissions free vehicles can’t do the job required for example, four-wheel drive Department of Conservation trucks or for travel along the West Coast where there are fewer EV charging stations.”
He stressed that turnover for the government fleet won’t take as long as for the rest of the country.
“Unlike most vehicle owners, the Government leases its fleet so vehicles turn over on average every 3-5 years,” he said.