TRANSPORT – More electric vehicle support from NZ power companies

15 November 2016

Meridian, Vector and Mercury are now all looking to plug us in to the EV revolution, following trailblazing work by ChargeNet NZ and Ecotricity.

Meridian has made its first move in offering special support to its customers with electric vehicles. It has introduced a low cost overnight electricity plan to reduce the cost of overnight charging. From 9pm to 7am customers on the Rest Easy plan can benefit from a lower rate designed for them to charge their electric vehicles. The new tariff is available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Charging overnight is crucial. It avoids adding to the network strain of peak-time evening demand, which is often met by climate-damaging thermal generation.

Yasmine Al-Darra, Product Manager explained the thinking behind the initiative. “Meridian is passionate about EVs. We want to do all we can to support EV take up. We believe it is the way of the future. We did a lot of research, talking to EV owning customers about what we could do to support them from an electricity retailer’s point of view.”

The company has also opened four free charging stations in Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North at Sylvia Park, Lynn Mall, Northlands and The Plaza. Earlier this year it entered into an official partnership with electric vehicle car-sharing start up Mevo. And it is just about to receive the first electric vehicles in its own fleet, while it continues to research options to switch as many of its vehicles as possible. 

Meanwhile Vector has released its own EV app to help drivers locate the company’s nine charging stations across Auckland. The app is intended to help allay ‘range anxiety’ by providing real time information that EV drivers can easily access to plan their journey. Vector is encouraging other charging station owners to add their locations to the app.

Mercury has already partnered with Plugshare, the New Zealand Government and Contact Energy on a similar app, named Electric Highway. Mercury also offers EV owners a 20% discount on a household’s electricity costs between 11pm and 7am. The company has also organised discounts on e-bikes for its customers, through partnerships with bike shops like Switched On Bikes and Electric Bikes Auckland.

You might argue that power companies have a vested interest in this. And you might think this would upset a fuel retailer like Z. Not so. In partnership with Charge.Net, Z has rolled out six fast-charge electric vehicle charging stations at sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

In a recent report, the company outlines its belief that the global mass adoption of EVs is inevitable and New Zealand is well placed to be part of it. Although the report acknowledges the difficulties of making predictions, one scenario suggests an exponential take up in EVs could begin in the next few years.  

Leading the way are ChargeNet NZ and Ecotricity. ChargeNet NZ is a membership organisation that is creating a nationwide electric vehicle rapid charging network. There are 24 chargers open and 15 under construction. Ecotricity’s fleet is 100% electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The company has combined carboNZero certification of electricity with innovative pricing plans to support the uptake of electric vehicles and solar generation.  

Phil Jones, Smart Transport project leader at the Sustainable Business Network said: “It’s great to see the way the power companies are lining up to support the EV option. It’s helping to make electric vehicles more accessible. Combined with better public transport, improved options for walking and cycling, and sharing our vehicle fleet, we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our transport system.”