Coastal shipping and rail have less potential in the drive to reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector than the optimistic view expressed in a Productivity Commission issues paper on decarbonising the New Zealand economy, says the Ministry of Transport in a submission to the commission's inquiry.
"We concur with your assessment that electric vehicles (EVs) are by the far greatest emissions abatement opportunity New Zealand has to lower transport emissions," says the two-page response to the issues paper sent on September 4 by Joanna Pohau, the ministry's acting manager, people and environment.
However, the ministry is less optimistic about the potential for coastal shipping and rail to move freight out of road-based trucking, mainly because so much of New Zealand's freight 'task' involves sending goods over short distances and because customers have come to expect 'just-in-time' deliveries that ships and trains struggle to fulfil.
"Much of our freight moves over short distances," the ministry says. "This is a movement that is typically only economic for road freight. As well, some cargo, for example liquid milk, best suits being moved by road" and "not all locations have access to rail and/or coastal shipping."
The ministry expects that lower emissions from long-haul freight operations will emerge from a combination of some cargoes shifting to shipping and rail, greater collaboration among cargo owners, more fuel efficient trucks, increased use of bio-fuels and, ultimately, "adopting new fuel and vehicle technologies as they arise".
This could include electric heavy long-haul trucks "if they become available".
The submission coincides with the announcement of an EV car-sharing scheme in Christchurch that its backers claim is the largest in the Southern hemisphere.
From late November, some 70 of an eventual fleet of 100 EVs will be available for Canterbury businesses and residents through fleet management company Yoogo, which has been selected by Christchurch City Council to implement the services.
The company's "electric car sharing model breaks down barriers around cost and charging infrastructure, making pure electric vehicles accessible and affordable," Kirsten Corson, Yoogo general manager, said in a statement.
The service will be available for the CCC, Ara Institute, engineering firms Aurecon and Beca, the Canterbury District Health Board, law firm Chapman Tripp, Environment Canterbury, Meridian Energy, architects Tonkin and Taylor, and Warren and Mahoney, and, Christchurch Airport, as well as for the general public.
In its submission, MoT agrees with the Productivity Commission's suggestion that "current policy settings may need to be revisited if we are to achieve a widespread uptake of EVs" and endorses setting fuel efficiency standards as one route to achieve that.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced late last month that the government was setting a target of one-in-three of the government's car fleet being EVs by 2021.