Z Energy pumps more than two billion litres of fuel a year but is now getting into the business of rapidly shifting electrons into cars.

Electric vehicle charging company Charge.net.co.nz has installed six $50,000 units at Z stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Z sustainability manager Gerri Ward said this was part of a commitment to moving from being a part of the climate change problem to the heart of the solution.

"We're not an oil company, we're a transport energy company and we're committed to meeting the needs of our customers, whatever they might be," she said.


She said the fast chargers - which can top up an EV in as little as 15 minutes - were a step up from the single slower charger it installed at a central Wellington site five years ago.

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The company wasn't going to make money directly from the chargers, the $5 to $10 average top-up fee goes to Charge.net.

"There's nothing commercial in it for us - we don't expect to make any money out of it. It's there as a service."

Ward said Z had a flood of requests from customers requesting more chargers.

While some people found it curious that a petrol company would be putting chargers in, Z was also building a bio-diesel plant in Wiri which will use tallow from meat processing to produce 20 million litres a year.

"We also want to be at the front of the push towards a cleaner, more sustainable New Zealand and to give Kiwis choices to use more renewable fuels," she said.

The six fast charging sites were busy and high-profile city stations but Z would consider making available space at sites such as in Waiouru and Sanson that would be used by those travelling long distances.

Ward said with more than three million light vehicles powered by petrol or diesel and not much more than 1000 pure plug-ins, EVs had a long way to go before making a material difference to the make-up of the fleet.

"Whether they're going to make as much a difference as we think remains to be seen but in New Zealand with an 80 per cent renewables profile they make a lot of sense."

Z was spending about $200,000 providing infrastructure support for the chargers, Ward said.

Steve West. Photo / Grant Bradley
Steve West. Photo / Grant Bradley

Charge.net chief executive Steve West said his company had installed about 100 chargers throughout the country, including the Z sites.

"It's certainly very brave of them as a retailer of petroleum to enter in to the electric charging space, amazingly brave."

He was also talking to The Warehouse Group and Foodstuffs about their sites.

"The idea is to match the charging time to the typical dwell time of a customer," he said.

He was taking a long-term approach to making money out of the business.

"At 25c a minute it's going to take a long time to pay for a station. For the business model to make any sense you've got to have faith that EVs will take off with a massive uptake and sales. In a sense these help this to happen."

Chelsea Sexton. Photo / Grant Bradley
Chelsea Sexton. Photo / Grant Bradley

The Auckland Airport Z charging station was opened on Friday by Chelsea Sexton, who 10 years ago helped expose motives for General Motors' ditching of a successful pioneering EV in the movie Who Killed the Electric Car.

She visited New Zealand about eight years ago.

"It's interesting to see the enthusiasm has grown since the last time I was in New Zealand talking about electric cars.

"It's heartening to see there is such support and interest."

In the US there are federal and some state subsidies for EVs which had helped uptake there.

She worked for GM on the EV-1 and said there had been a shift in attitudes among car makers.

"We've seen quite a bit of turnaround but there's still a lot of work to be done. There are a handful that are pretty serious now."

Filling up

• It will cost between $5 to $10 to charge up a car like a Nissan Leaf.

• Charge time will be between 10 and 25 minutes.

• A 25-minute charge will "fill up" a Leaf, allowing it to travel about 120km.