GREEN SPECIAL: Where can't you charge a Battery Electric Vehicle in New Zealand?
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It’s a measure of how quickly Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) charging infrastructure has developed in New Zealand that we no longer have to ask where can you drive your BEV? It makes more sense to ask where can’t you drive it?
It’s fair to say that most BEVs are more than capable of most driving that most Kiwis do. The average daily driving distance for Kiwis is less than 40km per day and that’s reflected in the fact that 85 per cent of BEV charging is still done at home. With a decent home quick-charging setup (Audi has a domestic installation offering that’s less than $1800 for most houses), you’re pretty much set for day-to-day driving.
But for BEVs to really be credible as everyday transport, they have to be able to tackle longer drives and that’s where charging infrastructure comes in.
As we discussed in our Green special on BEV charging, most public stations offer DC fast charging of at least 50kW (a select few are much faster), so you’ll be able to get around 200km of range into a modern BEV in under half an hour.
Charging stations in NZ are actually quite plentiful. The PlugShare website currently lists 634 individual charging points around the country – although that includes every possible plug-in point, including caravan parks.
For a more real-world number, we could look at ChargeNet, which is the largest provider of BEV fast-charging infrastructure in NZ. It currently has nearly 200 stations on its network and the number is growing, with 20 currently under construction and another 20-plus planned for 2021.
Impressive numbers, but what does that mean in a practical sense for the BEV driver? The goal is a charger every 75km on main highways in the medium term and ultimately one every 50km.
Right now, if you have a BEV with at least 200km range (and that’s every modern model), you can pretty much drive anywhere on main roads in NZ without running out of charge.
One of the biggest holes in the network has been over the Southern Alps (from Christchurch to Hokitika, for example) and then from the WestCoast down to Central Otago. But that’s now being plugged. This month a DC fast charger went live at Arthur’s Pass and two more are planned for Springfield and Castle Hill Village before the end of the year.
The 420km drive from Hokitika to Wanaka has also been a huge wall for many BEVs (and challenging ever for some longer range models); while the trip still requires some planning, there’s now a charger at Franz Josef.
The southernmost ChargeNet DC station is Bluff; the northernmost is at Waitiki Landing, just a few kilometres from Cape Reinga.
There are certainly still a few journeys that require some forethought (and maybe a little bravery). For example, New Plymouth to Te Kuiti is just 167km, but over some very demanding roads. However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Running a BEV requires a different mindset than simply filling up with petrol all the time, but once you’re on board with the logistics of charging, owning a BEV is no impediment to a proper Kiwi road trip