Electric car drives Bay in new way

By Lawrence Gullery

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Hawke's Bay power firm Unison Networks has bought one of only a handful of electric vehicles to test and research its long-term affects on the company's electricity distribution network.

Unison owns and manages the electricity networks in Hawke's Bay, Rotorua and Taupo and recently completed testing using the latest generation of Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid.

The company recently bought a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle which was sourced by Hawke's Bay Nissan.

Unison Group chief executive officer Ken Sutherland said testing the family-size electric car would help the company understand the peak loading and power quality needs of the vehicle.

The research would also help show how its power demands would interact with other technologies such as distributed generation (solar panels) and energy storage, such as large-capacity batteries.

Unison will also be investigating how power could be stored in the car's battery when connected to the network, which could in turn be used to support the supply of peak loads in the home and on the network. Research will also look how customers could generate electricity at home and use it to charge their vehicles or to feed excess power back into the house and network during peak load times.

Mr Sutherland said Unison was keen to understand the likely uptake rates of the car in New Zealand which would also help the company prepare a time line for when electric cars are likely to use its network.

"The move to electric vehicles will require the establishment of both a private and public charging infrastructure," Mr Sutherland said.

"We are currently working with the Hastings District Council to develop the first public charging station, which will be installed in Hastings.

"EV [electric vehicle] owners will be able to charge their cars at home using a 15 amp outlet, and Unison and Nissan have also had charging stations installed."

More than 70 per cent of New Zealand's electricity is supplied from renewable energy such as wind farms and hydro-dams, so switching transport from fossil fuels to electricity will mean a huge reduction in New Zealand's carbon emissions.

Fuel savings will vary for consumers based on what model and engine size petrol car they were previously driving.

But as an example, the fuel cost savings of driving an EV compared to a 1.5 to 2.0 litre car are up to 75 per cent depending on variables such as the price of fuel versus power costs.

Nissan Leaf

  • Travel range of about 100km.

  • The AA reports about 95 per cent of New Zealanders' daily trips are less than 100km, with the average daily travel 39km.

  • The four-door hatch-back styling seats five people.

  • It takes about 10 hours to charge a battery from empty to full using 15 amp outlet.

  • A solar panel on the rear spoiler provides charge for vehicle electronics and accessories, reducing the demand on the main battery and increasing range.

  • Top speed of 150km/hour.

  • Environmentally friendly design, recycled materials used for many parts, including seat trim made from recycled bottles.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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