A proposal to allow electric cars to drive in bus lanes will worsen congestion and do little to encourage uptake of electric vehicles, experts and environmental advocates say.
The idea was included in the Government's high-profile, multimillion-dollar bid to get more New Zealanders into electric cars, launched yesterday in Auckland.
In unveiling the package of policies, Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Simon Bridges set a goal of doubling the electric fleet every year.
"It's clear that electric vehicles are the future," Mr Bridges said.
The policies included plans to increase the availability of electric vehicles (EVs) and the number of charging stations, and $7 million in funding for an electric car awareness campaign and innovation grants.
One of the minor policies, however, grabbed the spotlight.
The Government said motorists in electric cars would soon be allowed to use bus lanes and high-occupancy lanes, including dedicated lanes on the state highway network such as the Northern Busway.
"Access to such lanes will mean electric vehicles will be able to travel more quickly than vehicles otherwise held up in traffic," a Government paper said.
Victoria University's Ralph Chapman, an expert in EVs, said buses were often more efficient than electric cars and it made no sense to have cars with one driver holding them up.
Lobby group Generation Zero said the proposal was short-sighted and would increase congestion.
Transport Blog editor Matt Lowrie said allowing electric cars in bus lanes was "insane" and would undo all the good work the Government had done towards improving public transport.
"It pretty much undermines everything else the Government is trying to do with its cycleways, making roads safer, making public transport more efficient. It seems to be targeted at the few who can afford [electric cars], particularly businesses."
Last night, the New Zealand Transport Agency said it and partner Auckland Transport will investigate allowing electric vehicles on the Northern Express Busway and what impact that would have.
The Government also announced other incentives to switching to electric cars, including exemptions on road user charges worth $600 a year.
However, Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the biggest obstacle to uptake was up-front cost for an EV, often at least $50,000.
The best way to encourage uptake was to remove fringe benefit tax on electric cars, she said, incentivising businesses to shift to an electric fleet.
Others were encouraged at the Government's public commitment to cleaner transport.
The Automobile Association said a publicity campaign would help dispel some of the myths around electric cars.
• Target of doubling electric car fleet every year (from 2000 in 2016 to 64,000 in 2021).
• Light and heavy electric vehicles exempted from road user charges -- average saving of $600 a year.
• Government will work with private sector to investigate bulk-buying of electric cars.
• $1m for nationwide information campaign, and $7m for low-emission innovation grants.
• Allow electric cars to drive in bus lanes and high-occupancy lanes.