Rise of the electric vehicle
Better for the environment, cheaper to run, easier to maintain – there’s a lot to like about electric vehicles (EVs), so it’s not hard to see why New Zealand sales are increasing by the day. In fact, the government has projected that we could see over 60,000 EVs on our roads by 2021 – which would require the current number doubling every year.
What’s holding NZ back?
Whilst electric vehicles have plenty going for them, there are a couple of restrictions that are limiting the numbers we’re seeing. First of all, EVs are still pretty pricey – so even if you save money in the long run, there’s a big upfront cost for consumers. Arguably the bigger problem, however, is that there are limited places available for consumers to actually charge their vehicles – which is pretty problematic when the average EV can only cover around 120km from one charge. Using an EV to travel around town may be fine, but if you’re ever planning on covering a bit more distance – travelling between cities, for example – then you need to be a bit more careful.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to find somewhere to charge your car when you’re out and about – some petrol stations have charging stations, and there a few other scattered places where you can stop and charge, such as McDonalds. With the increasing numbers of electric vehicles on the road, we can expect to see many more neighbourhood charge stations in the future. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, we’ll see service stations dedicated solely to electric vehicles. You can also bet that some of the more eco-friendly companies will start putting charging stations in their carparks to cater for their clients with EVs (some are starting to do this already). Typically, public charging stations will utilise direct current fast chargers which can easily fully charge an electric vehicle in under an hour (it’s worth noting that not every car out there can utilise DC charging).
In charge at home
Of course, most electric vehicle owners are going to be charging their car in one place and one place alone – in their garage. Home chargers will usually operate on alternating current power – as with everything else in the home. AC charging takes considerably longer than DC charging, normally require upwards of 8 hours for a full charge. This means that if an EV owner needs a quick top-up during the day they could be out of luck, but leaving the car to charge overnight will have it prepped and ready to go the next day.
We are slowly seeing EV owners upgrading their electrical systems at home so they can support faster charging. Chargers which can draw a higher current are becoming more readily available, but in order for these to be used safely the connection will need to be rated for the higher current. Naturally, this will require thicker wires and extra circuit breakers, so you’ll need to get involved if homeowners want to upgrade their charging systems. These higher current chargers may not charge quite as fast as the DC chargers available in public spaces but will still be much more efficient than the standard set-ups most people have in their homes.
Whether EVs completely replace their fossil fuel dependant predecessors is anyone’s guess, but you can guarantee that we’ll see increased use of EVs in the future. At the end of the day, whether electric vehicle users are opting for charging at home or out in public, the number of charging sites available is going to increase and someone is going to have to be tasked with installing them.