The Better NZ Trust is a community of drivers, enthusiasts, and advocates who are helping to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles in New Zealand by sharing their knowledge and educating people about the benefits of going electric.
"There are two things you can do as an individual if you're worried about the environment," says Kathryn Trounson, the chairperson of the Better NZ Trust. "The first is to eat less meat and the second is to buy an EV or a hybrid that uses less fossil fuel. Our goal is to make it easier for people who are considering making the change to EVs."
"We advise people on the best dealerships around the country and we encourage people to go to their local dealer and take an EV for a test drive. Press the start button, drive around the block and most people will be smitten."
"It's about getting people to overcome their long held assumptions and the myths. Bad news seems to stick in peoples’ minds far more than the good news. It's human nature but we can refute just about every objection that people have about EVs."
Driving on clean, affordable, domestic electricity is more fun, convenient, and practical. It improves air quality for families across New Zealand. It supports both our local economy and the global environment. As the Better NZ Trust puts it, "EVs are quite simply, better."
The three most common misconceptions about EVs
Some people claim that the processes involved in manufacturing and disposing of EV batteries are worse for the environment than ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. Not true.
Yes, mining for the components for Lithium-ion battery cells does have concerns. But those same concerns also apply to smartphones and other technology.
Battery makers are working towards more responsible supply chains, reducing the amount of cobalt, and developing technology to reduce the dependence on rare metals. These have the potential for cheaper, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly energy storage in the near future.
As for the end-of-life stage and concerns that our landfills will be piled high with worn out batteries, that doesn't make any economic sense. The materials in an EV battery are far too expensive to throw away and innovative new ways of reusing and recycling the batteries are emerging all the time.
EECA is a member of the Battery Industry Group, a collaboration between more than 140 organisations to develop a waste stewardship scheme for large batteries.
In 2010, the Nissan Leaf was the first modern all-electric, zero emission car produced for the mass market by a major manufacturer. Today, Nissan is repurposing the first generation Leaf batteries to power robots used to build their cars creating a circular economy for EV batteries.
Kiwis make more than a billion car trips under 2km every year. That means for the vast majority of EV drivers charging their car overnight by plugging into a standard powerpoint in their garage, carport or driveway, will be their default method for charging their car.
"When somebody asks me how long it takes to charge my car I tell them 10 seconds," says Trounson. "That's how long it takes me to plug in my car when I come home in the evening."
When planning a longer trip there are a number of apps available, including ChargeNet's, to help you plan your route and your charging stops. Given there are over 500 public charging sites around New Zealand, running out of charge in the middle of nowhere no longer stacks up as a reason not to switch to an EV. ChargeNet is the largest privately owned, fast charging network in the Southern Hemisphere with over 200 charging stations across the country.
Waka Kotahi and ChargeNet's goal of having a rapid charger every 75km along the country's main State Highways is almost complete so even low-range vehicles can travel long distances. If you do get low on charge, reducing your speed can extend your range significantly.
"Charging a Nissan Leaf battery with a rapid charger takes around 20 minutes, the same time as it takes for a coffee stop," explains Trounson. "Charging a bigger car like a Tesla takes 45 minutes or so, enough time to stop for lunch."
"People make out that driving an EV is taxing on your mental well being but that's absolute rubbish. I've owned an EV since 2015 and it's changed how I drive. If you plan your trips and work out where you want to stop, it allows you to enjoy the journey as well as the destination."
"People at EV events tell me they need to be able to drive from Auckland to Wellington without stopping so until there's an EV with a battery range of 800 kilometers they won't even consider it. I tell them 'you must have an amazing bladder if you don't need a pitstop between Auckland and Wellington!'"
More than 80% of New Zealand's electricity is generated from renewable sources and there is enough supply for widespread adoption of EVs. Even if every light vehicle was electric, we can generate enough electricity provided the majority are charged at off-peak times.
Our high levels of renewable energy mean the benefits from reducing EV emissions are greater than in most other countries, and would produce 80 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Our electricity system means it is easy to charge EVs from existing outlets at home or work and more than 85 percent of New Zealand homes have off-street parking, which makes it convenient to charge EVs at home overnight. Many electricity companies have introduced electric car power plans offering cheaper night time rates for EV owners.
In fact, EVs may prove to be a benefit rather than a drain on the power grid. Electric car batteries were used to power homes during power cuts as part of a 2019 trial by Vector. So instead of draining the power grid EVs could potentially ease peak-time demand on electricity networks and keep the power on during short-term outages.