New Zealand’s network of electric highways is taking shape, increasing the range of electric vehicles.

By the end of next year it should be possible to drive an electric vehicle (EV) the 634kms from Auckland to Wellington without the worry of running out of power.

Dozens of rapid charging EV stations - with charge times of about 20 minutes - are being installed every 40 to 80km on or near main highways between the two cities.

ChargeNet NZ is aiming to have up to 100 rapid chargers in use along State Highway 1 and other primary routes south from Auckland by the end of 2018. The company says it already has 32 stations operating with another eight under construction.

At the same time Vector, the country's largest distributor of electricity, is playing a part in this revolution. It has developed an app giving motorists directions to all but one of the rapid charging stations located between Kawakawa in Northland and Invercargill - and is working to expand its own network of charging stations in Auckland.

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ChargeNet chief executive, Steve West, says the charger network will help ease 'range anxiety' experienced by people unsure how or where to re-charge their EVs on long distance trips and for those considering buying an electric vehicle.

"The question they invariably ask is 'can I drive my EV from Auckland to Wellington?' We want to be able to answer that in the positive without the trip taking days and travellers having to beg and borrow power along the way."

West says SH1 is the most viable for locating stations - for now at least.

"The road up the West Coast," he says, "is a great tourist route but it is totally unsustainable. You could not build a network of charging stations there and recover enough from its usage to justify the investment.

"It's all a matter of timing. We're talking about doubling EVs on the road each year and it may not be viable this year, or next year, but in five years it will be."

The number of EVs has more than doubled in the last year. At the end of 2015, 973 were registered, rising to 2,430 by the close of 2016.

Meanwhile Vector's app gives motorists directions to over 135 charging sites including all the ChargeNet stations and its own Auckland-wide network of 13 rapid and eight standard chargers.


WATCH: Vector electric charging stations are rapidly increasing across NZ. Diane Green discusses the new EV app and the exciting developments that can be expected in the future

Diane Green, Vector's group manager of key projects, says the app has details of all rapid charging stations located throughout the country along with the 91 standard stations. It gives people directions to find the stations, tells them what type it is (rapid or standard), if it is compatible with their vehicle and the live status of all but one of the rapid chargers (is it available, in use or out of order).

Green says Vector has invited other EV charging operators on board because it wants to encourage growth in EV numbers: "It makes sense to work with ChargeNet, Horizon Energy and others to provide EV drivers with this app."

She says Vector is planning to install a further eight rapid chargers and two standard chargers at various locations in Auckland - including Kumeu in the city's north west region - bringing its total number of stations to 31.

To date there have been 17,290 rapid charging sessions at Vector's network, up from 6,207 in September. At the same time they have delivered 112.71mwh of electricity, up from 40.88mwh in September and saved 149,827kg of CO2 emissions compared to 54,336kg.

Growth in New Zealand EV numbers is close to matching that occurring worldwide. According to an International Energy Agency report, Global EV Outlook 2016, over 1.2 million EVs were on the world's roads by the end of 2015, more than double the 2014 figure.

"New registrations increased by 70 per cent between 2014 and 2015," the report says, "with over 550,000 sold worldwide (200,000 of those in China)."

Although representing only a fraction of the estimated one billion passenger cars in the world, the global target is for 20 million EVs by 2020 and 100 million by 2030.

Some of the biggest advances are being made in Norway, a country roughly the same size as New Zealand. With a population of 5.3 million (compared to New Zealand at 4.6 million) and 2.5 million passenger cars (2.8 million here) it has 135,000 registered EVs, the largest per capita in the world and the fourth largest in numbers behind China, the US and Japan.

In March 2014 Norway became the first country where over one in every 100 passenger cars was a plug-in electric. By the end of last year five per cent of all passenger cars on Norwegian roads were electric, while EVs made up 23 per cent of new car sales.