NZ government backs cycling, electric vehicles and rail to cut emissions

The New Zealand government is allocating substantial funding and resources towards achieving its goal of cutting per capita greenhouse gas emissions from transport to half 2007 levels by 2040.

Measures include support for electric vehicle uptake, funds for rail electrification and a $100 million Urban Cycleways fund to support 54 projects across the country announced by Minister for Transport Simon Bridges in June this year.

“This will generate an overall investment of $333 million in urban cycling infrastructure, which is the single biggest investment in cycling in New Zealand’s history,” Mr Bridges said.

Currently, transport generates around 20 per cent of the nation’s carbon emissions, with light passenger vehicles generating 58.3 per cent of those emissions in 2013. Light commercial vehicles generated 14.2 per cent, heavy vehicles 19.4 per cent and rail 1.1 per cent.

Emissions reduction targets have been set under the nation’s Emissions Trading Scheme, and will be used to guide subsequent reviews of the scheme, Mr Bridges said.

In addition to the big 2040 target, the government has mandated that by this year light vehicles entering the fleet need to have an average emissions performance of 170g of CO2 emissions per kilometre travelled.

Electric vehicle push from above

The Ministry of Transport is also looking at ways to increase the uptake of emissions-free electric vehicles, he said.

Currently there are around 140 EV charge points installed around the country. Mr Bridges said the Electricity Networks Association is currently scoping a “Renewables Highway”, which could see the development of a backbone of charging infrastructure spanning the length of the country.

“As in most countries, charging electric vehicles in New Zealand will mainly be done at homes and workplaces,” he said.

“Our standard 230 volt power supply and high rates of off-street parking mean electric vehicles can be charged overnight using conventional power outlets.”

Public transport has also been a focus

Just over $1 billion has been allocated to public transport under the 2015-18 National Land Transport Fund.

“This funding is matched almost dollar-for-dollar from local councils, and is a 19 per cent increase on the previous three years,” Mr Bridges said.

“In addition, funding from the State highway and local road activity classes will be used to develop road-related public transport infrastructure such as bus lanes. The government has also invested $2.2 billion to upgrade the metro rail networks in Auckland and Wellington.”

This includes nearly $1.7 billion to upgrade and electrify Auckland’s metro rail network, and to assist Auckland Council purchasing 57 new electric trains.

Wellington’s electrified metro rail network, which carries more than 11 million passengers a year, has received $485 million in funding for upgrades since 2008, Mr Bridges said.

A total of 589 kilometres of New Zealand’s 4128 kilometre rail network is electrified, including the Hamilton to Palmerston North section of the primary North Island freight line and the two metro rail networks. The balance of the rail network uses diesel-driven locomotives.

Keeping freight on the rails

To reduce the emissions of the freight sector, the government has invested $1.442 billion in KiwiRail since 2008 to ensure it remains competitive with road freight. The Crown-owned rail operator carries freight equivalent to 1.2 million truck journeys a year.

Wellington looks to electric buses

The city of Wellington currently has a fleet of 60 electric trolley buses, which is scheduled for replacement in the later part of this decade. Mr Bridges said the council intended to replace them with fully electric buses when the technology becomes available, and was also investigating the potential for electric double-decker buses.

Auckland Transport is also looking at alternatives to high-emissions buses, and is working with stakeholders to investigate opportunities for alternative fuels and traction methods, including electric buses, Mr Bridges said.

“The government and Auckland Council have recently begun working together to identify an agreed approach to developing Auckland’s transport system over the medium to long term.”

The role of Intelligent Transport Systems

“ITS technologies are a rapidly developing field. Many promise to reduce emissions, by addressing congestion and providing greater and more precise information to drivers or network operators about road conditions,” Mr Bridges said.

“Mobility and ride sharing apps will undoubtedly result in fewer cars on our roads.”

Since his meetings with smart transport and renewable energy innovators in the US and Japan last month, at which he promoted NZ as a test-bed for new technologies, Mr Bridges said there had been “genuine expressions of interest”. These have resulted in follow-up conversations he hopes will progress further in the current months.

“Many of the technologies being produced aim to reduce emissions by addressing congestion and decreasing the number of vehicles on the road,” he said.

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