New Plymouth District Council rejects free Tesla Supercharger Station for CBD

A Tesla Supercharger Station
Councillors voted against the Council's own report supporting it. Photo credit: Getty Images

Electric vehicle owners in New Plymouth will have to wait longer to charge their cars in town after the District Council voted against its own report to support the installation of a Tesla Supercharger Station in the CBD.

The Elon Musk-run electric vehicle company had been seeking a license that would give it four consecutive parking spaces in a central location, with three stalls for Tesla drivers and one with a universal charger for other brands.

"It is recommended that Council approves in principle the licence to occupy with Tesla in order to install a Supercharger Station at one of the locations," the report read. 

Molesworth, Powderham and Gill Streets had been the sites earmarked, with the best option of the three to be chosen.

"Taking this approach will allow Tesla to conduct technical and safety feasibility checks at their expense and engage contractors to seek quotes for installation or upgrades to existing network infrastructure on the site options," it continues.

"The site which is found most technically favourable will then be identified by Tesla to Council."

But councillors decided to vote against the Tesla venture, instead instructing council officers to investigate all options for an EV charging station and report back within 12 months.

That decision has been criticised by the Tesla Owners Club of New Zealand, which says New Plymouth has long been a challenging city for EV owners to visit because there's only a single 50kW fast charger there.

"To see Tesla NZ's offer to support the thousands of Tesla owners and tens of thousands of EV owners across New Zealand free of charge turned down is a slap in the face," the club said.

It called on the Council to "do the right thing by their ratepayers and by New Zealand as a whole by supporting this initiative and enabling a faster transition to an environmentally sustainable, electric future".

The report supporting the Supercharger Station said a decision to reject it wouldn't be consistent with the Council's own 'Sustainable Lifestyle Capital' vision or its city centre strategy.

"In alignment with Council’s actions on mitigation emissions, this proposal offers visitors to the CBD increased charging infrastructure. The provision of charging infrastructure allows visitors to New Plymouth who have elected to drive an electric vehicle to access charging infrastructure even when travelling long distances," it said.

"This option also affords Council the opportunity to augment the city’s charging infrastructure at no capital cost, however at a cost to Council relevant to the revenue generated by these spaces operationally."

According to figures in the report from infrastructure project manager Denise Houston, those costs could have been between $5408 and $20,000 per annum - depending on the location - because the Council wouldn't gain car parking fees for the spots.

The decision is likely to have an immediate impact on plans for EV owners to travel to Taranaki, the Tesla Owners Club of New Zealand said, as it had been planning a visit to 'Americarna': An American car culture celebration set to be held in February 2022.

"This decision by the council will certainly put a number of owners off attending this event, or visiting New Plymouth in general until the EV charging facilities within the city are improved," the club concluded.