It’s the EV life for me

According to Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority statistics, over 40% of New Zealanders say they would now consider buying an electric vehicle. Would one work for you? We cover a few topics that might help you decide if this impressive technology will allow you to travel EVery road.

The internal combustion engine has been with us since the end of the 19th Century. One-hundred-and-twenty-plus years is a long time to get used to something fulfilling a task with reassuring consistently. So, it’s perhaps no wonder we creatures of habit have approached the arrival of mainstream electric vehicles with caution.

What has become plain in recent times though, is that with a few modest lifestyle modifications, electric vehicles offer up just as much reassuring consistency as their internal combustion-powered forebears – greater consistency even, given that they feature fewer mechanical components and, theoretically, fewer bits that will wear out or fail.

 

Don’t get us wrong: there are still questions you’ll need to ask yourself about how you and your family live and work, how often and where you drive, what you use your vehicle for beyond the A-to-B stuff, and ultimately what is important to you from your chosen car.

Let’s start with what many assume is the biggest hurdle: battery range. Unless you’re aiming at a top-end EV like the Audi e-Tron, electric vehicles that cost less than the Government’s Clean Car Program rebate cap of $80,000 will generally give the driver between around 200km and 350km range (and it’s worth noting at this point, we’re just looking at pure Battery Electric Vehicles – or BEVs – in this article, not Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, or PHEVs).

 

Those out-of-town trips will take a bit more planning, but if most of your vehicle movements across any given week are for work, school, sports, and shopping, that available range coupled with the ability to plug in at home and charge the battery overnight means you should have enough fizz in the ‘tank’ to go about your daily life.

 

And you probably don’t go quite as far as you think. Surveys suggest 90% of the average Kiwi’s car trips are shorter than 90km, and our average daily car travel is around 30km.

 

Regardless, the best advice we’ve heard for maintaining a decent amount of charge is to treat your EV like your mobile phone: very few of us would routinely run our smart devices down to zero after every charge. Adopt the same routine with your car, recharging whenever the occasion arises when out-and-about (at a public charging kiosk if you’re shopping at the mall, for example), and making it an end-of-day habit to plug in when you get home.

 

Remember that the battery in an EV also recovers and stores energy generated when the car brakes (a process known as regenerative braking). Depending upon which setting you elect to drive in, you can push more of this energy back into the battery under braking. If you’re anything like us, this tech has the ability to morph those with a competitive streak into setting PBs while attempting to cover kilometres of distance using only a fraction of the battery charge.

 

Speaking of distance, however, for longer trips you might need to pull in at a public charger in the same manner as you’d refuel your petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle.

 

The number of charging kiosks is always growing. Aside from a handful of more remote regions, the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (EECA) estimates there are publicly accessible charging stations at least every 75km on most of the New Zealand state highway network.

 

Charge times will vary depending upon both your vehicle’s battery capacity and the type of charger you’re using, but between 20 and 40 minutes to get the battery back to 80% full seems to be a pretty standard window. And if you think that sounds like a long time, have you ever queued for a coffee at a service station while refuelling on a long weekend?

Okay, what about running costs? Electric vehicles remain like ‘normal’ cars, in that they still rely on the same good quality tyres, windscreen wipers, brake pads and other consumables your common or garden variety petrol V8 uses. They also require a current Warrant of Fitness and Motor Vehicle Licence, like any other vehicle. But when it comes to actual savings on fuel, it’s a no-brainer.

 

If you charge your EV overnight at home, setting the car’s timer to commence charging using off-peak electricity rates, your EV will be brimmed for a fraction of the price of a tank of gas. Almost every EV owner will be armed with their own anecdotal equations, and there are certainly plenty of variables, but one stat that appears a lot is that charging an EV costs roughly the equivalent of around .30c/litre in petrol terms. For the moment, electric vehicles are also exempt from Road User Charges.

 

Perhaps we’re raising the most important query last but, what are they like to drive? Are they, y’know, fun?

Absolutely. They’re very responsive and offer plenty of instant torque, meaning they’re quick off the line and can accelerate briskly. There are no gears to climb through, so they offer immediacy from the accelerator, and they handle well too because the battery packs under the cabin floor give the car a lower centre of gravity and are generally set up to assist with ideal weight distribution. That regenerative braking system we mentioned earlier also means the car starts to slow as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator, providing for ‘one pedal’ driving (depending on which energy setting you use).

 

Yes, for many the burble of a traditional engine is just too much to lose from the experience – and to be sure, electric vehicle makers have some way to go to effectively replicate that tangible compromise with anything else. But hey, the quietness in the cabin means you can converse with passengers and listen to music all the better.

 

At the end of the day, an EV is still a car. It just uses a different source of motive power – one that looks set to become the reassuringly consistent technology we’ll be relying upon for the next hundred years of motoring. To EV or not to EV? Go forth and decide for yourself.

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