Electric vehicle numbers in Wellington double in a year video

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ.

Wellingtonian Nathan Murrell has driven his Nissan Leaf around Wellington for 18 months, and says the car is perfect for the capital.

Wellingtonian Nathan Murrell lives in Tawa, drives to work in Plimmerton, attends Saturday sports – and his fuel bill is $10 a week.

In the 18 months he has owned his electric car, he has saved more than $7800 on petrol.

But how friendly can the hilly capital be to an electric car such as Murrell's Nissan Leaf – with only one fast-charging point in the whole city?

Wellington's first fast-charging electric vehicle station at Z in Vivian St. There are also fast-charging points in ...
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Wellington's first fast-charging electric vehicle station at Z in Vivian St. There are also fast-charging points in Petone, Hutt Rd in Petone, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, and Porirua. (File photo)

Very, is the answer from Murrell, who says the downhills actually help charge the car.

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Nathan Murrell says his Nissan Leaf is "dirt cheap" to run, and loves Wellington's hills.
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Nathan Murrell says his Nissan Leaf is "dirt cheap" to run, and loves Wellington's hills.

Cruising down Ngauranga Gorge, the Nissan can gain 2 per cent of its charge right back.

"I don't know any other cars that will refuel while you go downhill, and it even saves on brake pad wear," he said.

"We bought it as a second vehicle but, for us, it's become our main vehicle."

Over the past year, the number of electric vehicles, or EVs, in the Wellington region has more than doubled, from 208 to 469, and 248 of them are trundling around the city, according to NZTA figures.

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However, there is only one fast charger in central Wellington at present, at the Z station in Vivian St, as well as five slow chargers: three at Zealandia, one at the Sustainability Trust, and one at Z in Featherston St. 

There are also fast-charge points on Hutt Rd in Petone, at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, on Queen St in Upper Hutt, and Serlby Pl in Porirua.

But Wellington City Council is reserving three new parking spaces for fast-charger bays, and another 10 for medium-speed chargers, within the next few months, all of which would make the operation of an EV more convenient, council sustainability manager Moana Mackey said.

"We are also part of a project funded by the Low Emissions Vehicles Contestable Fund that will make residential charging possible for those without on-street car parks."

Despite the current lack of charging points, Murrell said the charge he got at home overnight twice a week would easily see the car through the week.

"For most Kiwis, their commute is 26 kilometres. I get about 120 to 150km from the battery."

From other drivers' stories, on the rare occasions when owners get caught out with a flat battery, they simply improvised with the emergency recharge lead the cars came with.

This sometimes meant unplugging a service station's fridge, or ducking into a campsite.

"People are usually so interested and curious in it, that they are happy for you to plug in," Murrell said.

In 18 months the family had experienced one case of range anxiety, when they drove to Palmerston North for an airshow. "We dropped down to about 4 per cent of the battery, but I know from research there's a little more than the amount they tell you is still in there."

It took roughly 20 minutes at a fast-charge station to go from flat to 80 per cent charged, he said, which was enough time to squeeze in a coffee.

In terms of cost, an older model of the Leaf comes in at about $12,000, with newer models costing $20,000-$30,000.

Prospective buyers might be worried about not being able to get their EV services at a normal mechanics, but Murrell said finding a qualified provider was a doddle. 

 - Stuff

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