The practicality of EV travel on NZ roads

BMW i3 Charging

We own personal vehicles for one simple reason: convenience. With a personal vehicle, it is easier and faster to get to your destination on your own time frame. You save the time you would have spent walking or using public transport, and you save the added cost of a taxi or a rental. Trips can be made on short notice or immediately according to the needs you and your family have.

The problem with this convenience is one of ethics. Our personal combustion engines are destroying the environment, with emissions contributing to global warming and threatening public health. Making a switch to an electric vehicle (EV) is an ethical solution to maintaining our autonomy.

However, it comes with a compromise: EVs are just not as convenient as combustion vehicles. They are generally more expensive to buy, they have a much shorter driving range than their combustion-based cousins, and there are not as many convenient ways to “fuel up” – New Zealand only has 209 DC rapid charging stations nationwide compared to 1265 service stations.

With the current infrastructure the way it is, is it even practical to make the switch to an EV?

In a word, yes.

Short distance EV travel: very doable

If you have a newer EV that can go 200km – or even less – on one charge, urban travel is definitely practical. This is mostly because you can use your own infrastructure to charge your EV overnight. There may be more service stations than rapid charging stations, but EVs can easily (though slowly) charge using a household wall socket. This makes them suitable for short day trips or overnight trips. If you have a long commute and are worried about getting all the way home on a single charge, there should be no reason why you can’t charge your car at work to give it a little boost.

Long-distance EV travel: doable with some planning

New Zealand’s 209 DC rapid charging stations are spread out across the North Island and the South Island, with 144 in the north and 65 in the south. The New Zealand Transport Authority’s goal is to have a rapid charger available every 75km along New Zealand’s main State Highways, a goal that is nearly complete. Besides the rapid charging stations, there are an additional 300+ registered AC charge points on the website PlugShare.

Is it practical to road trip in an EV? Definitely, you just have to plan your trip a little more carefully than you would with a combustion engine vehicle. Whether you choose only to stop at rapid charging stations or are happy to explore a town while you charge at a campsite for a few hours, there are plenty of options available for you to enjoy your trip.

EV charging resources

There are a number of resources to help you plot your journey. PlugShare lists a variety of charging stations by type and location and lets you register for a trip planner service. ChargeNet also outlines the nationwide charging network.