Should New Zealand ban internal combustion engines?

It is difficult to imagine the degree of disruption and change that we would have in New Zealand if internal combustion engines were banned. But this is what some people want.

Dominion Post: Why New Zealand should ban internal combustion engines


Bold and decisive actions are necessary if New Zealand is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions substantially.

The new Labour-led Government has committed to introducing a zero carbon bill later this year. But how should the aims of such legislation be achieved?

Of such measures, perhaps the most effective would be a ban on the sale of all new or imported used vehicles with internal combustion engines. Such a ban could take effect, say, from 2030.

At least that would be twelve years to prepare.

Many developed and developing countries have already introduced or are seriously contemplating such bans.

Britain, France, Ireland, Germany, India and China are listed – if car manufacturing countries ban internal combustion engines that would have a flow on effect here anyway.

New Zealand should follow suit.

As it stands, our transport sector accounts for around 18 per cent of annual gross greenhouse gas emissions and over a third of carbon-dioxide emissions. Emissions from road vehicles make up over 90 per cent of our total transport emissions. Hence, a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles would, in due course, considerably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

It could also considerably change how people travel. It would presumably also affect freight – and at the moment I don’t think there is EV technology that would handle long haul trucking. And if it also applies to rail that would require electrification of all existing rail lines, a huge and costly exercise.

About 85 per cent of our stationary energy comes from renewable sources and this percentage continues to increase. Accordingly, EVs can be recharged in New Zealand with a very low carbon footprint.

18% isn’t that much different to the 15% of non-renewable stationary energy.

And from RNZ yesterday: Electric vehicles could put strain on power network

There are fears that an increase in the uptake of electric vehicles could end up overloading the electricity network.

Electric vehicles make up less than one percent of the entire fleet, but it has been predicted they could make up 70 percent of it by 2050.

Consultant Simon Coates told Nine To Noon that if this happened they would account for 40 percent of domestic electricity usage and would place a strain on the network.

The above proposal is for a 100% electric fleet by 2030, but back to the ban proposal…

Of course, even with such a ban it will take decades to decarbonise New Zealand’s transport fleet. In 2016 close to 40 per cent of light vehicles were at least 15 years old. If the current age structure is maintained over the coming decades, it will be mid-century, even with a ban, before most petrol and diesel vehicles are phased out.

It  may make sense to move away from internal combustion as quickly as possible, but it will be complex, difficult and costly.

A ban of the kind suggested would serve multiple purposes. It would underscore New Zealand’s global commitment to substantial emissions reductions. It would help give substance to our claim to be ‘clean and green’. It would send a powerful signal to the automotive industry and consumers, thereby altering expectations and decision-making.

Moreover, it would help improve planning in the transport sector by providing greater certainty. In so doing, it would speed up the required investment in a comprehensive charging infrastructure and hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The planning required would be huge.

It might be argued that the proposed ban is unnecessary. After all, by 2030 most automobile manufacturers will probably have ceased producing internal combustion engines. But a high proportion of vehicles sold in New Zealand are used imports rather than new vehicles. New Zealand must not continue to be a dumping ground for cheap, out-of- date, high-carbon technologies. We must aspire to a better, cleaner future and act accordingly.

This is fine as an aspirational ideal, but there is no attempt to detail what this would actually require and mean for New Zealand.

There is also no costings – how much would be required to convert? And what would the resulting transport costs be like?

Who has proposed this?Not a couple of young Green idealists.

Thomas Anderson is a Research Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington. Jonathan Boston is Professor of Public Policy at VUW.

Leave a comment


  1. Trevors_elbow

     /  20th March 2018

    In principle seems reasonable IF you are convinced that human driven global warming is real.

    A smarter approach would be a fast follower not an early adapter when uncertainty abounds..

    Want to improve the carbon footprint of vehicles? Tighten emission standards and make it a wof issue with a slow rise in standard year on year… it will squeeze older vehicles out of the fleet. In parallel set higher emission standards for imports which rise as the wof standard does but are five years ahead in terms of emission standard required.. the replacement fleet will be more modern and less polluting…

    EV will grow naturally as greenies move to ev and as they trade up then second hand ev cars become more available.

    No need for a ban. No need to jump to a solution too quickly…. and the above squeeze policy gives the lower socio-economic classes an easier and gradual upgrade path to more efficient and greener tech.

    Oh and a squeeze policy could be started in the next 2 years and address the problem incrementally from an early date than the 2030 ban proposal.

  2. Gerrit

     /  20th March 2018

    Perhaps overlooked is the fact that internal combustion engines are used not just in transport. For example most hospitals run back up diesel power generators in case of electricity outages.

    We also need to look at shipping. How many larger ships can rely on electricity to run efficiently? Nuclear is an answer but is it exceptable?.

    Industrial places like New Zealand Steel would need to close (cant make steel without coal)

    The ban has a far greater reach than just transport.

    • 2Tru

       /  20th March 2018

      Don’t forget air travel – it’s a big consumer of fossil fuel. Does that mean no more tourists? Or is it only kiwis that will pay the price of carbon neutrality by no longer travelling widely overseas and frequently within NZ. Oh, I guess it will be back to trains but NZ Rail want to go fully diesel. And what about Greater Wellington’s decision to scrap electric trolley buses and go diesel? Seems to me not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

  3. artcroft

     /  20th March 2018

    The first step is to ban motor racing in any form. Step two: Ban engines above 2 ltrs except for commercial use. Step three: ban modified boy racer cars (actually that’s step one). I’m not opposed to this cos hey climate change is a disaster people.

    • Chuck Bird

       /  20th March 2018

      So you think nanny state should confiscate my 6 litre holden?

      • Griff

         /  20th March 2018

        Where did that come from chuck?
        No need to ban new v8 holdens.
        They have died due to the market for big gass guzzling v8’s drying up.

      • PartisanZ

         /  20th March 2018

        I do … I think the owner of a 6 litre Holden demonstrates lack of social responsibility …

        Defining, delineating, administering, constraining and compelling social responsibility are some of the primary reasons for having government …

        So yeah … Hand it over … I’ll impound it on behalf of the authorities … until such time as decent social responsibility laws are enacted …

        PS – I won’t use it Chuck … I couldn’t afford to put fuel in it!

      • Blazer

         /  20th March 2018

        only if you’re in it..Chuck.

  4. unitedtribes2

     /  20th March 2018

    Worth considering

    “I was reading Richard Lindzen saying this morning, that the temperature has risen by a 1°C approximately in a last 150 years. During that time, every single measure of human welfare has improved, including environmental quality, especially in the wealthy countries, where we can afford to build the technology to clean the air in the smokestacks from the coal plants, and in our exhaust from our cars. These days what comes out of the exhaust of a car is almost all water and carbon dioxide, both of which are essential to life. So what I like to say, most people gasp at this, the fact is fossil fuel, coal, petroleum, natural gas are 100% organic, as in the scientific meaning of organic. Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon, in other words, the chemistry of life and all the fossil fuels are made from life, so they’re 100% organic. They were made 100% with solar energy. That was the only energy input.”

    You need to consider if the problem is real before you consider the solution.

  5. BobJ

     /  20th March 2018

    The question I come back to with NZ being ‘carbon neutral’ is if we were carbon neutral tomorrow what difference would it make on a global scale to carbon output? The answer is – nothing, zip, three fifths of bugger all, the impacts on day to day NZ of this ridiculous goal would however be significant and more than likely wreck a small economy like ours. Why not just wait, eventually take advantage of any technology that comes along as a slow follower. I couldn’t care less about being a virtue signalling do good country leading and showing the world the way, in particular as the world doesn’t actually care remotely about what we do and its only the hand wringing idiots with a over inflated sense of our position in the world that do!

    • Griff

       /  20th March 2018

      Why not just wait, eventually take advantage of any technology that comes along as a slow follower

      I could name quite a few large businesses that tried that approach to new technology.
      Once household names like Imperial Xerox IBM Nokia Blockbuster Kodak Sony.
      Most of them are gone from industry they once dominated . or been eclipsed by new company’s.

      Moot anyway
      In a decade or so you will find it hard to even buy a new ICE car.

      Country Ban announced Ban commences Scope Selectivity
      Britain 2017 2040 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      China – “in the near future” Gasoline and diesel production
      China 2018 2018 Gasoline and diesel 533 specific models
      France 2017 2040 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Germany – “2030” combustion engine new vehicle sales
      India 2017 2030 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Ireland 2018 2030 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Israel 2018 2030 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Italy (Rome) 2018 2024 diesel all vehicles
      The Netherlands 2017 2030 all vehicles emission free new vehicle sales
      Norway 2016 2025 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Scotland 2017 2032 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      Taiwan 2018 2040 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales
      United States of America (California) 2017 2040 Gasoline or diesel new vehicle sales

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th March 2018

        Norway has self interest in hydro sales to Europe. And anyone who wants a real car can just hop over the border anyway.

        • Griff

           /  20th March 2018

          A REAL car Alan ?

          You mean like a four door seven seat sedan that does 0 to 100kmh in 2.7 seconds.
          A seven seat SUV that does 0 to 100 in 3.1 seconds .
          Or how about a two door sports car that does 0 to 100 kph in 2.1 sec top speed 400 kph 8.8 sec for a 1/4 mile and a range of 1000 km.

          That a real car.

          Not some smelly noisy obsolete ICE powered heap of shite v8 Holden.

          • David

             /  20th March 2018

            Griff, I just reserved my Roadster, it is only $7,000 deposit and in ten days I transfer $358,000 to join the waiting list.

            When is your’s being delivered? Tesla don’t tell you at all….

            • Griff

               /  20th March 2018

              Yess dave.
              One day you might just realize talking shite makes you an…..
              Well you know I tell you often enough.

              I could not justify a $100,000 car or I would already be driving a Tesla.

              When the 40kw leafs get within my price range I will probably buy one.
              Until then I will have to stick with the shitty little Mazda I traded my v6 Camry for .Down sized because.. you know, carbon footprint, hypocrisy and all that.

  6. Lets see just how you’re going to feed the world with the grain that wont be planted or cropped without diesel power.
    Or road repairs and slip clearance.
    For a start….

    • David

       /  20th March 2018

      “Lets see just how you’re going to feed the world with the grain that wont be planted or cropped without diesel power.’

      It’s easy, we just reintroduce peasants to farm work.

  7. Zedd

     /  20th March 2018

    There are a few strategies (IMHO) they should adopt: move to biofuels.. reduce fossil fuels & promote EVs where possible. Oh yes & cycling & public transport needs to be promoted as a ‘cool’.
    When i was in Aust. many relied on Trains (electric) to get to/from work.. when i returned to NZ (over a decade ago) I had almost forgotten that 95% of kiwis >15 yrs drive nearly everywhere.. even to a friends house about 100 yards, down the street ! (As I have seen) 😦

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th March 2018

    As ever doing whatever makes economic sense will work and everything else will be a disaster. Let people who know their own needs work out their solutions and stop academics and politicians who don’t from wrecking their lives. Be a smart follower, not posturing, self-harming idiots.

    • PartisanZ

       /  20th March 2018

      The pharmaceutical drug industry makes “economic sense” Alan …

      The Liquor Industry makes “economic sense” …

      1080 poison drops make “economic sense” ahead of a possum fur and meat industry …

      Where time is money anything that speeds things up – I should say “increases productivity and efficiency” – like driving places rather than walking or bicycling makes “economic sense” …

      As in ‘the death of liberalism’ topic stream, it is the intrinsic contradictions of “economic sense” that are the problem more than the solution … although I’d rather call them ‘stages’ in the natural evolution of robust, sustainable Market Socialism …

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th March 2018

        Both pharmaceutical and liquor industries run to Government rules, not economic ones. 1080 poison drops are also Govt mandates.

        If you want to attack liberal economics, none of those are appropriate.

        • PartisanZ

           /  20th March 2018

          Oh I know Alan … We should be more like the United States of Amnesia, where the pharmaceutical industry has run riot, killing 65,000 people in a few short years with Oxycodin … where the liquor industry is democratically regulated because the nation has experienced both extremes, the ‘Laissez Faire’ Roaring Twenties and Prohibition … and where 1080 has been banned for many years because its toxic as fuck …

          Perhaps you’re talking about Hayekia. Friedmanity, New Rothbardland or the State of Von Mises …?

  9. Gezza

     /  20th March 2018

    No danger here. They aren’t going to risk any major changes until they see the polls make it a no lose situation. Probably still waiting to see how Simon’s elevation affects the polls. Must remember to watch Question Toime today.

    • Gezza

       /  20th March 2018

      Don’t Simon really scored any hits on Jacinda at Question 1. Easily deflected. Nothing about drunken pervs.


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