We have had our electric car for just over three months now and the love affair hasn’t cooled at all. In fact we fall deeper every time we drive it. I get to use it for work but it’s become an arm wrestle for driving rights when we go out together. Charging at home isn’t a problem with our new power system (I’ll tell you about that later) and range anxiety is mostly a thing of the past. I suspect we might have a range anxiety relapse when we go on our first Wellington trip but it never makes an appearance in our day to day running. I’ve stopped watching the gauges, secure in the knowledge that I’ll have enough energy for the trip, or if not that I can charge at my destination. I’ve become so blasé that I don’t even carry the power cord on trips to work or town anymore.
In the first couple of months, we logged every trip; home to work, home to town, home to Rotorua, etc. and have accumulated a pretty accurate record of where we can go with how much energy. For example, I use 33% of battery to get to work and home again, 13% there and 20% home. Energy use is affected by terrain (hills suck juice and it takes almost 10% to climb the steep 5 1/2 kilometres up our dirt road to home), weather (rain & wind suck juice) and speed (go over 100kph and watch those numbers drop) so living in the country means our efficiency is not as high as a city slickers. Electric cars hardly use any energy cruising around town or sitting in traffic, exactly opposite to an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICE). A city LEAF could probably get 25% more range than its country cousin.
The longest trip we’ve had so far has been to Hamilton, a round trip of 380km. We left home with a half full battery and topped up in Rotorua, (40% to get to Rotorua). It took 23 minutes, long enough for a comfort stop and a look in the information centre and cost $6. Then we drove over the Mamakus at speed limit (including 110kmp on the new expressway) to Cambridge for the night.
We stayed at the Cambrian Lodge Motel, a cheap and cheerful spot a short walk from town and the Good Union Food Hall where we had dinner and watched the rugby. Herman and Lucy at the motel allowed us to charge our car overnight from our room at no extra cost. It may have cost them about $5 in electricity but they declined our offer to pay for it. I have been quoted anything from $2 per hour to $25 a night for charging so this was a delightful surprise.
The next morning we drove into Hamilton where we visited some elderly relations, caught up with some friends for lunch and tiki toured around a bit before heading home again. We probably could have made it back to Rotorua on the charge we had left but why push the range if you don’t have to. We topped up in Cambridge, (17 mins $6.04) then added a little more in Rotorua, (10 mins $3.15). It cost $15.19 for the trip. My old Subaru would have used closer to $100 worth of petrol.
We have met some lovely people at charging stations. The Whakatane Rapid Charger is next to the Information Centre, the bus stop and the river walkway so its a busy place. We have seldom charged there without someone coming to chat about the car. The Man of the House even met a Tesla there. For those of you not in the know, Tesla make top of the range electric cars ranging in price, in NZ from $116,000 for a Model S to the $230,000 Model X . They have bigger batteries, longer range and even drive themselves.
The Whakatane Rapid Charger was installed by Horizon Energy and is free to use. Power companies are right behind the move to electric cars for obvious reasons and have put free chargers in many places. In Auckland, it seems congestion is becoming a problem at these free charging stations. Especially as the Teslas with their larger batteries can take an hour and a half to charge at a Rapid Charger.
The uptake of electric cars in New Zealand has exceeded expectation, 500 a month in new registrations, and the charging network is growing fast, but maybe not quite fast enough. Teething problems happen with any new technology and I have no doubt that we’ll get it right. In the mean time, we’re still loving the car, loving the cheap running (February running costs = $0, March = $18), loving the time we get to explore while charging and loving the quiet, zero emissions ride. Try one. I think you’ll love it too.