Meridian Energy has launched an ambitious campaign to take on electric car leader Norway in spite of concerns about the impact of rapid uptake of the vehicles on the electricity system here.

While this country lags well behind the Norway in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) and rate of ownership, Meridian says it is offering incentives for charging and is also converting half of its own fleet away from petrol.

It says Norway was ''the undisputed leader in the adoption of electric vehicles'' but more New Zealanders needed to start thinking about driving electric.

''The recent uptake we've seen in New Zealand is pretty impressive, but we know that there is more we can do to reduce emissions. Our campaign is encouraging New Zealanders to get involved in moving New Zealand forward to an electric car future," said Meridian chief executive, Neal Barclay.


At the end of last year there were 6160 EVs registered in New Zealand which is on target to reach 64,000 by 2021. Norway has more than 200,000 plug-in cars and last year sales of EVs outnumbered petrol or diesel vehicles.

The Scandinavian nation of just over five million provides big incentives for EV ownership with generous tax breaks that make them cheaper than their petrol equivalents, road toll exemptions, free public charging and parking.

Barclay said Meridian has launched a new, nationwide Electric Car Plan, offering customers low night rates from 9pm until 7am, and until August 31, and cover the cost of charging an EV for a year.

"We're walking the talk when it comes to electric vehicles. We're on track to meet our commitment of 50 per cent conversion of our passenger fleet to fully-battery electric by the middle of this year." he said.

The company, whose electricity is generated from renewable sources, had also partnered with electric car sharing companies and has installed free electric car charging stations at Kiwi Property shopping malls.

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In a recent study, network company Vector raised concern about the impact of a high number of EVs on the electricity infrastructure.

Auckland-based network company Vector warns that the sheer volume of electricity required to recharge a car with a long-distance battery at a suburban location will place a strain on existing networks and force costly upgrades.

''Left unaddressed, tipping points for significant network upgrade investment can be expected to have either large cost implications for consumers or eventuate in physical constraints preventing customers from charging their EVs at home,'' the study says.


The strain is likely to be greatest in the early evening, when EV owners come home and plug in their cars to recharge, coinciding with the time of day when electricity demand peaks.

However, Meridian says this was a known issue and that's why there were tariffs in the market to incentivise off-peak charging today.