'Range anxiety' soon to be a thing of the past for EV drivers

Drivers of electric vehicles won't have to worry so much about running out of juice anymore.

The location of every charging station in the country has been compiled into a single database, EVRoam, that'll be updated in real-time as more come online.

"This makes it easy for electric vehicles drivers to plan their journeys, and gives people more choice," says Harry Wilson, NZTA director safety and environment.

Aside from the up-front cost of buying an electric vehicle, or EV, 'range anxiety' puts many would-be drivers off making the leap. Only the most expensive EVs, such as Tesla's Model S, can go as far on a single charge as even the least-efficient petrol cars can on a full tank.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says in Norway, where electric cars are much more popular, 85 percent of charging is done at home. But even though it's only slightly bigger than New Zealand, range anxiety isn't a factor because Norwegian EV owners have more than 7000 charging stations to choose from, compared to New Zealand's few hundred or so.

Julie Anne Genter.
Julie Anne Genter. Photo credit: The AM Show

She told The AM Show on Thursday while there is "pretty good density" in some urban areas, there are some regions that have very few.

"There are some gaps - along the West Coast, some parts of the South Island where there are gaps. It's pretty good, but what this information is going to give us is a good idea of where the Government needs to look to make sure we have a comprehensive network."

While there are existing apps that show where charging stations are, Ms Genter says they're either specific to one company's network or rely on crowd-sourced information.

Ms Genter called the EVRoam database a "world-first" in data-sharing between private organisations like ChargeNet and public providers such as Vector.

"The private sector has really stepped up and provided a lot of charging stations, but there are some places where it's not commercially viable - and that's where the Government has a role to play. It's not very expensive - we're talking tens of thousands of dollars, so it's not that expensive in the context of the transport budget, which is $4 billion a year.

"We're very committed to ensuring we can have a switch to cleaner vehicles. That's not just EVs - the whole fleet can be safer and cleaner than what it is. We have very old cars in New Zealand."

She wouldn't say exactly how the Government plans to get Kiwis out of their old gas-guzzlers and into EVs, but hinted at regulation on less-efficient vehicles, saying they are currently "basically getting a subsidy because they're not paying for the pollution that they're going to [create]".

She also said EVs the Government purchases will eventually hit the second-hand market.

"What we need to do is make it easier for New Zealanders to afford cleaner, safer vehicles. Then they're going to save money on petrol as well."

In 2016 there were only 30 charging stations across New Zealand. The number of registered electric vehicles has more than quadrupled since then, according to non-profit Drive Electric, to more than 8000.