Updated: Sep 17, 2020
We were pleased to see the recent announcement by The Northland Regional Council (NRC) regarding its growing fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. The 10-strong fleet is believed to be among the largest of any local authority nationally.
Regional councillor Justin Blaikie says the council currently has seven full electric vehicles (EV) and three plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PEHV). It also has a raft of 80 solar panels atop its Water St headquarters, installed three years ago, which help charge them.
Councillor Blaikie, who represents the council's Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency, says the NRC's foray into EV ownership began several years ago, driven both by the potential long-term financial savings – and environmental benefits – they offer.
He says the council's 20kW rooftop 'solar array' currently generates enough power to drive about 500 EV kilometres per day, cutting about $26,000 from the council's annual fuel bill. (To put the size of the roughly $50,000 array in perspective, a typical household solar system has a roughly 2kW capacity.)
Energywise NZ (EECA) estimates the cost of running an EV at the equivalent of around 30c a litre but like any asset purchase, you need to do your own sums and determine of an EV is right for you.
As advances in technology start to; reduce costs, increase the range of a battery charge and reduce the recharge time, an EV will become a more attractive and practical option for that next vehicle. Even at current prices, the cost of an EV can be more than offset by the annual savings in fuel and lower maintenance costs, especially if the annual distances covered are high.
While the range (on a battery charge) of an EV has been an issue for many of us, that is rapidly changing and the EV will soon be more than just an 'around town' option. The (more affordable) Renault Zoe now boasts a range of close to 300km on a single charge and the last time I looked you could source these new in NZ for around $40K. In addition, the number of rapid charging stations is increasing very quickly. Northland already has a number of public electric car charging stations, including several in Whangarei as well as at Kaiwaka, Dargaville and Kawakawa.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and national fast-charging network operator Charge.net.nz announced they will jointly fund a roughly $300,000 project to install five new charging stations in the Far North by mid-2018. Under a project dubbed ‘Northland’s Crimson Coast EV Highway’, the new stations will be installed in Kaikohe, Waipapa, Mangonui, Houhora and Waitiki Landing and will enable locals and tourists alike to travel the entire region in EVs.
There has been a noticeable increase in 'volume' on the EV news front this year. There have been announcements from both Governments and major auto manufacturers regarding deadlines for phasing out the product of fossil fuel powered vehicles, some of the timelines seem astonishingly short but then let's not forget that it was only 10 years ago that Apple introduced the Smartphone to the World.