NZ's EV charging problem highlighted in 13,000km campervan trial
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The results of a nationwide trial have sparked a new electric vehicle (EV) research & development project aiming to improve the efficiency of EV travel nationwide.
The five month trial saw an electric campervan driven more than 13,000km across New Zealand - with data recorded on the cost and availability of charging infrastructure as well as local attitudes and awareness towards EVs.
Two visiting Parisian 'eco-tourists' drove the prototype electric campervan around the country to test the vehicle under real world conditions, as well as produce a documentary for the European market on their sustainable tourism experience here.
JUCY rentals co-founder and COO Dan Alpe says while the tourists were able to traverse most of the country efficiently, the trial revealed a number of shortcomings with New Zealand’s EV infrastructure which need to be addressed to provide a more seamless experience for tourists.
“One of the key findings of the trial was that in some parts of the South Island there are long distances in between vehicle charging stations which our current battery range can’t easily traverse," said Alpe
“For example, there are no campgrounds between Blenheim and Kaikoura, let alone any charging facilities and only two fast charging stations in the entire West Coast."
“This meant the tourists had to stop every 100kms to charge for five hours and, in a number of cases had to knock on the door of a private household to ask to charge their vehicle overnight!"
“There was also a significant cost variation in the cost to power the battery each time, with one campground wanting $45 just to charge the vehicle - compared to a $5-$10 at most fast charging stations around the country."
“International tourists come to New Zealand expecting to find a country which has embraced a sustainable philosophy and it is clear that more work needs to be done for us to meet these expectations.”
Despite the shortcomings, Alpe says JUCY rentals is moving ahead with plans to introduce a larger fleet of electric campervans to the New Zealand market.
“The first stage will be the addition of another ten electric vehicles which we expect to have ready in time for the coming summer season."
“This new fleet of vehicles will need to go much further on a single charge to avoid tourists being stranded,” he says.
Alpe says JUCY is working with academics at Massey University to produce the next generation of electric campervans.
“The trial data showed us there are some key areas we need to focus on, including reducing the weight of the vehicle and increasing the capacity of the battery to allow us to get 200 km from each charge."
“Our collaboration with industrial design specialists at Massey University will see us completely redesign the interior and exterior of our campervans using new materials which are lighter and more aerodynamic."
“We will also be looking at the integration of solar panels and developing more advanced battery technology to find new ways to get more distance from each charge - without travellers having to compromise on features such as air conditioning to conserve power."
“There is a also a significant education role to be undertaken about electric vehicles - particularly among campgrounds and tourist centres who need to understand the importance of EVs in future of New Zealand tourism."
Alpe says one of the more interesting outcomes from the trial was the fact that centres with fast charging stations become an essential destination point and tourists will often want to fill in the wait time of 20-30 minutes by shopping in the local area.
“As we begin to better understand how travelling with EVs changes the behaviour and demographics of this sustainable tourism market, we will become better equipped to provide the sort of experience that will see our international reputation as a green destination continue to grow,” he says.
Alpe says JUCY has recently applied for Government support to fund the local research and development of new EV technologies.