How to drive from Cape Reinga to Bluff for free

If you're thinking of taking the family on a road trip this summer, we might have a special challenge for the increasing number of electric vehicles (EVs). 

The number of EVs has more than doubled in the past year, and there are a lot more charging stations to ease your refill anxieties.

Electric vehicle owner Nigel Broomhall says electric vehicles are great to drive and easy to charge.

"In New Zealand, from a public charging infrastructure perspective, it has put a lot of good stuff in the ground already. So there are quite a few options and that's continuing to grow." 

We've researched all the free charging stations and attempted to plot a completely free route from North Cape to the Bluff.  

According to PlugShare, there are 269 charging stations across New Zealand, which run about 75km apart. Twenty-eight of those are free.

Our experiment is based on starting with a fully charged car at Cape Reinga. The first free stop south of there is Houhora. From then on, there are free stops at all of these places:

  • Houhora 
  • KeriKeri 
  • Whangarei 
  • Mangawhai 
  • Warkworth 
  • Silverdale
  • North Shore 
  • Auckland 
  • Huntly 
  • Hamilton 
  • Cambridge 
  • Taupo 
  • and Napier.

Then it's an easy trip down the east coast to Wellington, but there's no charging on the ferries - so make sure you top up there. 

From Napier, stop at:

  • Hastings 
  • Waipukurau 
  • Palmerston North 
  • Waikanae 
  • Petone 
  • and Wellington.

The top of the South Island is where we run into problems. A car with a 300km range will be able to drive all the way from Blenheim to Christchurch, but most EVs don't have that much range, so you might have to stop at a motel to fill up or go to a pay station.

ChargeNet is New Zealand's largest charging network, and has doubled in size in the past year to 126 charging locations.

"We've actually got a network that is going to allow you to get in amongst it on all the major tourist routes," ChargeNet communications manager Dee West says.

From then on it's an easy, free cruise all the way down to Bluff, via:

  • Rangiora 
  • Christchurch
  • Rakaia 
  • Temuka 
  • Waimate 
  • Hampden 
  • Dunedin 
  • Invercargill 
  • and Bluff.

New Zealand has a goal of having 64,000 electric vehicles on our roads by the end of 2021.

ChargeNet's CEO Steve West says we're well on track to do that.

"The number of vehicles is doubling every year."

He says ChargeNet has designed its network to facilitate travel with the smallest electric battery that there is, so it's easy to top-up across shorter distances. 

"We try and put them around facilities like toilets and cafes, so that means they naturally end up in population centres." 

There are more than 11,000 electric vehicles on our roads now. If you are taking one of these out for a road trip this summer, the advice is to map out where the charging stations are before you head off.

If you're going to take the challenge of driving from North Cape to the Bluff for free, you'll probably have saved yourself about $300 in petrol.

If you would like more information on electric vehicles, you can visit Drive Electric.