Go a little green, get a lot back
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The government will launch an expanded Clean Car Discount programme on April 1, which will reward more buyers who are registering vehicles with low CO2 emissions for the first time with cash-back rebates. On the flip side, those who first register high-emission vehicles will have to pay a fee so that their vehicle can receive its New Zealand numberplates.
The payments will be based on a sliding scale so that the lower the emissions of the vehicle being registered for the first time, the greater the sum given back in the rebate. Conversely the higher the emissions, the higher the fee that the first registered owner will have to pay. Vehicles that emit less than 146 grams of CO2 per kilometre will be qualify for a rebate, while those that emit more than 192g/km will require payment of a fee. Those that emit CO2 levels between these two thresholds will be unaffected by the revised Clean Car Discount.
The giving-here and taking-there is intended to encourage more new-car and imported secondhand vehicle buyers to make vehicle choices more in step with New Zealand’s CO2 emission reduction targets. Under its global obligation towards suppressing emissions of climate-warming gases, New Zealand must achieve a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, a crucial step towards the main goal of becoming completely carbon-neutral by 2050. With the transport sector being one of the biggest emitters of CO2 in New Zealand, the number of Kiwi car buyers who can be encouraged to adopt low emission vehicles will be one of the biggest influences on whether the nation does succeed in meeting those targets.
What’s more, choosing a low emission vehicle will continue to save these car buyers money long after they’ve spent their registration rebate on whatever takes their fancy. For the amount of carbon dioxide that a vehicle emits during driving is directly related to how much fuel it burns in the combustion chambers of the petrol- or diesel-powered engine. The revised rebate scheme will now recognise this simple cause-and-effect by including more vehicles than before as it won’t just apply to fully electric battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).
While BEVs and PHEVs will continue to qualify for the highest rebates because of their ability to produce zero emissions while driving, Kiwi car buyers will also be rewarded for first registering a vehicle capable of frugal fuel use. That means that ultra-compact cars with smaller engines, and larger vehicles with hybrid powertrains (but still lacking a plug for recharging their batteries) can potentially qualify for the rebate when they are first registered for driving on New Zealand roads.
Another criteria that must be met for the vehicle to earn a rebate upon initial registration for New Zealand road use is that it must cost less than $80,000. It’s a ceiling high enough to put a host of unpluggable hybrid vehicles on the radar for buyers that didn’t qualify for the rebate before. Just about all brands have some form of hybrid model in their ranges these days, opening up the opportunity for more Kiwi car owners registering a vehicle for the first time to earn the rebate. The wider focus of the scheme will result in a ‘shopping list’ containing more yet-to-be-registered vehicle choices that are eligible for the rebate, creating a more level playing field for the car industry.
As an example of just how wide the Clean Car Discount will reach, some brands offer entire new vehicle ranges that have an average CO2 output that qualifies for the rebate. Step forward Citroen (123g/km), Seat (130g/km), Suzuki (131g/km), Mini (140g/km) Skoda (143g/km), and Peugeot (144g/km). Not every vehicle in the showrooms of these brands will qualify for a rebate, but a greater majority of the models that are found inside them will. Peugeot even has a diesel-powered van, the Partner, that emits 143g/km of CO2, earning its buyers a modest rebate when first registered for New Zealand road use.
Buyers of popular compacts like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, and similar, will find that a little judicious shopping on engine options could earn them a government-granted discount. Buyers will pay a small premium when purchasing the hybrid versions of these family-sized hatchbacks and sedans, but the rebates they will receive after driving out of the showroom will narrow or cancel that pricing gap, enabling the owners of these cars to enjoy the increased performance, higher specifications, and lower running costs of these hybrid models when driving.
Then there’s the B-class cars that are a size smaller than C-class offerings like the Corolla. Many of these will qualify for a rebate without hybrid powertrains simply because they use small capacity engines. There’s even some sporty turbocharged hatchbacks available in the B-segment such as the $38,990 Peugeot 208 GT and $41,990 Ford Fiesta ST, both of which will qualify for a rebate after April 1. Who said driving a greener car can’t be fun?
Want to earn a higher rebate while spending a lot less dollars at purchase time? It’s highly likely that the ultra-compact cars popular in Japan will qualify for decent rebates. A good example of these is the Suzuki Alto that’s only available here as a secondhand import. Only Altos made after 2014 will qualify for the rebate, as only the latest generation of the little Suzuki meets the three-star crash test rating required for the discount. The musically named Suzuki is a five+-star performer for both fuel consumption and carbon emissions according to rightcar.govt.nz.
The fees collected from those first registering high emission vehicles will help pay for the rebates given to those initially registering low emission vehicles. For those who require a diesel-powered 4wd ute or a large van, there is likely to be a fee of around $4500 to be paid when the vehicle is registered for the first time.
With the expansion of the Clean Car Discount and the swelling of the electrified or mildly-electrified vehicle market occurring simultaneously, the choice of a lower emission vehicle is being made a lot easier. The cost reduction doesn’t just happen at first registration rebate time, it continues into the ownership of such vehicles through lower fuel use and running costs. Even deciding to go ‘just a little greener’ when becoming the first New Zealand owner of your next car will become a gift that keeps on giving.