Push for NZ to adopt new electric car standard

Volvo XC90 (supplied)
Volvo XC90 (supplied)

Electric car sales will be stuck in the slow lane unless manufacturers can agree on a common charging standard, Volvo has warned.

There are presently 142 charging stations in New Zealand, but they're designed to accommodate Japanese and North American vehicles.

"The first plug-in vehicles to arrive here were out of Japan -- that's become the default standard for public charging stations around the country," says Volvo Cars NZ products and market manager Zac Burt.

"Most vehicles which are now being imported as new vehicles are coming with that same standard."

That's a problem for European-based manufacturers, because over there they use a completely different charging system.

"There's the physical element of the cables and the connection points, and there are multiple connection points at the moment," says Mr Burt. "Then there's the software side of it, and there are different standards with how the vehicles actually process the charge."

From next month, all Volvo cars will be compatible with the US/Japan standard, including its new Volvo XC90, which it's calling the first seven-seater plug-in hybrid.

In the future however, Volvo wants to see the widespread adoption of the newer Combined Charging System.

"It's not based off either the European or the American/Japanese [standard]. It's designed to replace both," says Mr Burt.

"If there was one standard globally, it would make it more efficient for the manufacturers of both vehicles and charging stations, and eliminate any sort of confusion that currently exists."

This will make it cheaper to install more charging stations and get rid of "range anxiety" -- the fear of running out of juice. On a single $2 charge the Volvo XC90 can go 40km, but with only 142 charging stations in all of New Zealand, drivers will still need to top it up with petrol on a regular basis.

Volvo plans to introduce plug-in hybrid versions of all its models over the next few years.

"We are starting to see a real shift towards fully electric cars, with the improvement of battery technology, reduced costs and better infrastructure making them more appealing," says national manager Coby Duggan.

"While we are there from a technology perspective, more work needs to be done on developing a globally standardised infrastructure. Only then will we truly see a significant increase in uptake of electric vehicles."

The company plans to introduce its first all-electric vehicle in 2019.