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NZ at bottom of league table for EV chargers: 'We really need to lift our game'

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09 July 2024, 6:11 PM

NZ at bottom of league table for EV chargers: 'We really need to lift our game'The government's dropping of EV subsidies has seen sales of new EVs plunge from 27 percent of the market to 8 percent.

The government promised to roll out 10,000 public EV chargers by 2030, but building is happening at a fraction of the rate needed, says EV lobby group Drive Electric.

As of April, New Zealand had 1200 public EV chargers, about one for every 59 fully electric cars.

To meet the promised 10,000 chargers by 2030 would required building 130 chargers a month, and the rate last year was just 21 a month, according to Drive Electric's Kirsten Corson.

"We really need to lift our game," she says.

Corson said attracting capital from companies to build chargers has been made harder by the government dropping EV subsidies, which has seen sales of new EVs plunge from 27 percent of the market last year to 8 percent so far this year.

That put New Zealand well behind China, the EU and the US for its rate of EV uptake.

But the news was not all bad.

The government has announced $257 million in funding for more chargers - although Corson said the industry needed much more detail about how that money will be spent.

And one of the often-quoted statistics on New Zealand's lack of charging infrastructure may not be as bad as it seemed.

A league table from the International Energy Agency in its 2024 Global EV Outlook put this country at the bottom of its table of 31 nations when it came to public charging points per EV.

But when it came to the ratio of fast chargers to slow chargers, New Zealand was on top, at 75 percent fast chargers, far ahead of the next nation, South Africa, at 53 percent.

"This can be attributed to New Zealand prioritising fast public chargers over slow," said the agency. "Although New Zealand has the most vehicles per charger, it is ahead of countries such as Australia and Thailand when considering charging capacity per EV. "

According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's (EECA) Richard Briggs, fast chargers were the crucial ones for people making long journeys, and they can charge more vehicles over the same period compared with slower chargers.

He said many slower chargers were not even counted in New Zealand's official statistics.

But that did not mean reaching 10,000 public chargers will be easy.

Briggs said one of the challenges was getting companies to invest in charging stations before these were used enough to be profitable.

He said the slow-down in EV uptake after the government dropped the Clean Car Discount has bought more time for the rollout, but also made it less attractive for companies to invest.

Briggs said the new government preferred a model of lending rather than granting money to encourage building, on the basis the charging stations will one day be profitable and companies can pay the money back.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown says the government is continuing the rollout while it is redesigning its co-funding model.

Along with upfront price, Briggs said fear of running out of juice was the main factor stopping people going electric.

However, he said the reality was once people bought an EV, they did 80 percent of their charging at home, and the average commute was only 20 kilometres return.

There was no doubt EVs took longer to refuel than petrol cars, he said.

But with good design, people would hardly ever need to visit charging stations, he said - at least not ones designed along the traditional petrol-station model.

Briggs said EECA was encouraging retailers to build chargers for top-ups at convenient locations such as gyms, supermarkets and malls, where people were going to park their cars for 30 minutes to two hours anyway.

Long trips required high speed chargers, delivering a lot of power quickly - and Briggs said there were still places where these were hard to come by.

He said one of the challenges of building these was that high-capacity electricity lines tended to be deliberately located away from busy main roads, so there was often a trade-off between cost and convenience when choosing a location.

For apartment dwellers and other drivers without off-street parking, public chargers were a necessity.

JOLT - one of Australia's largest urban charging networks - has recently started building chargers here, the UK and Canada, using a model of offering free charging funded by displaying advertising.

Chief executive Doug McNamee said a successful rollout took co-ordination between central and local government and lines companies.

He said countries the world over were struggling to build enough chargers to keep up with EV demand, and the UK had been one of the most successful because of its unified approach

The transport minister said as well as offering so-funding, the government was addressing resource consent requirements for EV chargers.

He said since the coalition was elected, charging points for 225 vehicles have been added.

Fast charging for another 173 vehicles was announced in April.

EV Statistics:

*EECA updates its count of EV chargers nation-wide every quarter.

  • Public chargers have mainly been installed in areas of higher population and EV ownership, such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
  • As of April there were 1248 chargers - 826 in the North island and 422 in the South.
  • The Canterbury region had one more charger than Auckland: 296 compared with 295.
  • Of the 80 that came online in 2024 before the end of April, 62 were built by ChargeNET.
  • Another 210 have been co-funded by the government through EECA but not yet built, and these are expected to be live in 2024 (149) and 2025 (61).
  • Nationally just 1.45 percent of cars are EVs - including 75,000 fully-electric plug ins and around 30,000 plug-in hybrids (which also have a petrol engine).
  • According to the International Energy Agency, nearly one in five cars sold in 2023 was electric, a 35 percent year-on-year increase.