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New Zealand emigres’ story tells us how switch to electric vehicles must be done

New Zealand emigres’ story tells us how switch to electric vehicles must be done

A rebate of 8,600 NZ dollars and a huge discount on their electricity bill are among the perks of buying Tesla Model 3

A new year, a new car. At least this is what automobile marketers would like you to believe and practice. 

While most of us are not financially capable to subscribe to this capitalist precept, 2022 might just be the year that we change our beliefs to adapt to the trying times. More than keeping ourselves relatively safer from COVID-19 infection compared to say public transportation, buying a car also affords us greater mobility in the long run. 

But deciding to buy a car is one thing, buying the right car for the times is another. 

What do Toyota, Lexus, Jaguar, Audi, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, and even the China alternatives such as BYD, Chery, Changan, Dong Feng all have in common now here in the Philippines? They are all selling electric vehicles in various shapes and forms. Granted not all have full EVs in their current lineup, but most have either hybrids or plug-in hybrids that herald the arrival of battery electric vehicles in the local market. 

So what is stopping automotive brands from fully committing to the eventuality at this time? Aside from the lack of charging stations that will assuage range anxiety from the public, the actual cost of EVs are still quite prohibitive. Still at the brink of mass production, EVs and their most essential component, the batteries, are still expensive to produce. 

Legislation that would help bring down the selling price of EVs and make them more practical to own such as the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act and the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, are still pending in both houses of Congress. And with the glacial pace our representatives and senators are dragging this issue, we can only hope that something concrete actually happens this year. 

The sticker prices of EVs, if they were brought in and sold now at prevailing market conditions, would make them out of reach to even the predominant car buyers, the middle class. That is why governments around the world are introducing laws that would help lower the retail prices of EVs. 

Just recently, Malaysia has pegged to zero the taxes it imposes on electric vehicles. These include import, excise and even road taxes. This makes EVs basically duty free. A Nissan Leaf for example is now priced at 181,263 Ringgit Malaysia or about P2.23 million. Here, the Leaf’s suggested retail price is still at P2.798 million. And that is despite having zero excise tax which the Duterte administration’s TRAIN Law already affords EVs. 

Meanwhile, other governments have also introduced rebates to car buyers who opt to purchase EVs. 

In New Zealand, for example, the government has allowed first-time EV owners to claim a refund for the EV purchase. Filipino New Zealand migrants Kenneth Alvin Rodriguez and his wife Kaye are among the many citizens who had availed of this incentive. Having lived in New Zealand since 2007, the couple decided to purchase a brand new Tesla Model 3 worth about P2.41 million so that they can do their part in preserving the environment of the country they migrated to. As soon as the government announced the Clean Car Discount program, Kenneth and Kaye put their money down for a Tesla. “This is the first time we bought a car online, and not from a showroom,” shared Kaye. 

Kaye Rodriguez driving their Tesla Model 3

“This is also the first car we bought without having a test drive,” she added. The experience was totally new for the couple, especially for Kaye who worked as a marketing executive in one of the popular Japanese brands in the Philippines before her migration. 

“We were able to get back about 8,600 New Zealand dollars for our brand new Tesla Model 3,” claimed Kenneth. That is about P300,725 when converted to local currency. And for someone who has to work a Balikbayan Box business on the side to make ends meet, this is big savings. 

The whole rebate process was made easy by the government as well. Application documents such as car registration and bank details were all sent via email. And within four days from filing the claim, the Rodriguezes got their rebate deposited in their bank account. 

New Zealand’s EV promotion plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the country by incentivizing buyers of electric vehicles worth up to 80,000 New Zealand dollars, or about P2.8 million. The program’s objective is to make the EVs affordable and comparable to the cost of gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles. This makes it easier then for the public to take the EV plunge. 

For Kenneth and Kaye, their family’s previous experience with hybrid cars, and even an electric lawn mower, made the decision pretty much moot and academic. And given the country’s expanding supercharging network, range anxiety was not much of a factor either in their choice to buy an EV. 

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Another detail that worked in their favor is the fact that Kenneth invested previously on a solar charging set-up for their home. That means their house is powered by the sun in the mornings. At night they are only charged 50 percent for the electricity they consume from the grid, yet another government incentive for EV owners. Owning their Tesla thus became even more economical in addition to the almost 8,400 New Zealand dollars or P293,731 they expect to save on fuel expenses each year. 

And to add the icing to the cake, “There are no more oil changes with the Tesla,” beams Kenneth. A service that costs them an equivalent of about P10,000 every 15,000 kilometers. “Life is short,” he says. And choosing an EV for the experience of owning one is just as important as the practical and moral reasons behind their decision. 

“Without government support, EVs won’t prosper,” said Kaye. And perhaps she is right. Convincing people to buy EVs will take more than just establishing a charging network, or lowering their selling prices. The government must also enjoin the people to go along with its noble objective. 

New Zealand’s target is to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. And to do this, it had to address the large elephant in the room–that two-thirds of their country’s carbon emissions come from light vehicles. Cars, SUVs vans, pickups and light trucks all under 3,500 kilograms. 

I can’t imagine it being that much different in our country where emissions coming from cars can easily be seen as a dark veil of smog and soot on our metropolis’ horizon. And in a country where about 85 percent of vehicle registrations are privately owned, the role of the citizen becomes all the more crucial. 

It will take a whole of government approach and a unified mindset by its citizenry to convince petrol hardliners to switch to electric vehicles. The fact that more than 51 percent of our energy comes from the burning of coal and oil doesn’t help in the logic of switching to EVs as well. 

That is why reeducating the public and promoting the long-term benefits of cleaner air to them is where it should all start. The Big Switch is not going to happen when people are not convinced why they have to put out more money and not be content with what is already a convenient, commonplace and ubiquitous solution as the gasoline pump. 

Meanwhile, in other countries, the choice has become clearer. And for regular, hardworking people like Kenneth and Kaye, there’s no turning back.