Tesla electric car owner Martin Minehan and giant energy distributor Vector are each playing a part in events that could make the petrol car obsolete in New Zealand within 20 years.

Minehan is one of a small but growing number of New Zealanders driving electric vehicles (EVs) towards a future some international experts believe will end road transport "as we know it" in 10 to 15 years.

At the same time, in anticipation of a surge in EV numbers, Vector is rolling out a rapidly growing network of charging stations across Auckland. So far it has installed 12 rapid (charge time 20-25 minutes for the average EV) and eight standard stations (six to eight hours). More are in the pipeline with the next rapid charger due to be installed within the next few weeks.

Minehan, like many fellow EV 'pioneers', is enthusiastic about the future. During a ride in his new electric Tesla S 90D luxury car, he oozes excitement. "I love the environmental, safety, technological and the community aspects of being an EV owner."

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Ordering and customizing the car online from Australia, Minehan paid $130,000 rising to $160,000 when GST and shipping were added.

Although he bought the Tesla mainly for environmental reasons, it was the trouble he was having with his previous car he had been driving for seven years, that was the final straw.

"It cost me $8,000 in repairs last year. Now when I get in it (he has yet to sell it), I think 'gosh, this is clunky'. There is no going back.

"With only a handful of moving parts (in an EV) the maintenance costs are significantly less than for an internal combustion engine car which has over 2000. I also charge overnight at home which costs the equivalent of less than 30c a litre of petrol."

There's a passionate EV community out there. While at a charging station in Newmarket another Tesla stops as it passes by. The driver parks and dashes across the road, flailing a piece of paper, anxious to speak with Minehan.

He is a total stranger, but the cars are the bond. Turns out he has set up a new website for Tesla owners and soon the pair have their heads together, sharing experiences, united in the cause.


New Zealand is moving closer to an electric car future as the number of charging stations grow. One of the latest to be installed is the Vector station at Auckland Airport.
WATCH this video to see what happened at the opening.

Even non-EV drivers are trans-fixed. While stopped at another charging station at Vector's head office, a group of curious onlookers gather and encircle Minehan - and he is only too happy to talk.

This is why Vector's charging stations are being increasingly used. Latest figures show 6,207 rapid charging sessions have taken place, delivering 40.88 megawatts of electricity and saving an estimated 54,336 kg of CO2 emissions.

The Government's target of 64,000 EVs by 2021 is well known and already growth is evident. As at September 11, there were 1,814 EVs registered in the country - up from 973 at the end of last year. So far in 2016, a total of 853 EVs have been registered with the numbers running at 94 a month by the second quarter of the year.

Vector's two latest stations are at Auckland Airport and BP Connect in Pakuranga. BP is the first fuel retailer added to Vector's network and company chief executive Simon Mackenzie says it is significant because it will help build confidence for those new to the technology.

"People are comfortable and familiar with taking their vehicles to petrol stations when the tank is low," he says. "By showing EVs provide the same convenience and mobility as fossil fuel vehicles, it will help build confidence."

While more charging stations is one sign of change (including Vector's stations there are now 142 located throughout the country) another is falling battery prices which Bloomberg New Energy Finance in the US says "are on a trajectory to make EVs as affordable as their gasoline counterparts in the next six years."

Tony Seba, a lecturer in Clean Energy at Stanford University, says change is already happening because of the revolution in battery storage, solar power and electric cars. He says it will be as rapid and unforeseen as the switch from horse-drawn carriages to cars in the early 20th century.

"Within 15 years conventional energy production and transportation will have been rendered obsolete. It is going to be over by 2030," he says.

His view is echoed by the leader of the Energy and Power group at Oxford University, Associate Professor Malcolm McCullough. Speaking recently at an electric car symposium in Wellington he said he believes no-one will be producing cars that use an internal combustion engine within 10 to 15 years although he says because of the strong second-hand car market in New Zealand, it may be 18 to 19 years before petrol cars are obsolete here.