As Tararua District Council considers its options for electric vehicles, our regional council has bought its first electric car.

Horizons Regional Council is looking to reduce its carbon emissions by six tonnes a year thanks to a new electric vehicle.

Horizons corporate and governance group manager Craig Grant said the council recently purchased a Nissan Leaf, the first zero-emissions vehicle for its fleet.

"Following an energy-efficiency review last year we recognised there were a number of ways we could make substantial carbon-emission reductions," he said.

"This included selling nine vehicles which were identified as under-used, freeing up capital to chose newer, more efficient vehicles to purchase as the remaining pool came up for replacement.

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"One of these is the Leaf which, as well as reducing carbon emissions, will save approximately $4000 a year in operating costs."

Tararua District Council manager of strategy and district development Peter Wimsett and deputy mayor Allan Benbow, the chairman of lines company Scanpower, attended the regional electric-vehicle forum hosted by Palmerston North City Council and saw Horizons' new Leaf electric-car demonstration.

"At this stage there's no plans for our council to purchase electric cars, but if the option is included in our Long Term Plan, they could become a possibility," Mr Wimsett said.

"We do need to consider the technology for long-distance travel and I understand new technology out next year will allow drivers to get 300 kilometres out of a battery."

Mr Grant said a number of Horizons staff had used the Leaf already and it had been an adjustment to consider how far the battery will allow them to go.

"The Leaf can get staff as far as Wellington with a full battery and there are charge stations in most main centres.

"With electric cars becoming more mainstream, no doubt more stations will pop up around the place as well."

In the Tararua, our council is looking at sites for electric car charge units and Mr Wimsett told the Dannevirke News he was currently working with Scanpower to identify sites.

"The transition to electric vehicles is going as quickly as the move from horse and cart to the motor vehicle and I've met with the chief executive of ChargeNet to discuss the suitability of charging sites at Eketahuna, Woodville and Dannevirke," he said.

"We're looking to get charging sites in Eketahuna and Dannevirke this year and the new Woodville iSite will be able to accommodate one, too. "

"But in reality, the future of electric cars will mean most people will charge up at home. But they'll need 30-amp power needing special cables to be able to plug into power boards."

Currently, homes have 10-amp power.

In addition to buying an electric vehicle, Horizons has developed a programme focusing on improving energy efficiency across the organisation.

"Last year we removed an old heating-ventilation air-conditioning unit from our regional house roof and replaced it with energy-efficient heat pumps.

"The traditional system was as large as a shipping container, requiring a significant amount of electricity to operate," Mr Grant said.

"We have since upgraded other traditional heating systems and begun LED lighting installation in our five service centres throughout the region.

The next phase of the programme will be staged upgrading to LED lighting in regional house and staff incentives for improving practices such as paperless offices and switching off computers and lights."

Mr Grant said as managers of the region's natural resources Horizons, aimed to lead by example.

"Our energy-efficiency programme has a long-term focus.

"These combined initiatives will continue to result in operating and maintenance cost savings, as well as a reduction in our overall carbon footprint."

The Government is aiming for 64,000 electric cars on our roads by 2021, with more than 3000 electric vehicles currently registered in New Zealand.

"As a country, we've really got to embrace electric vehicles and talk about them in the same breath as petrol and diesel ones," Mark Gilbert, chairman of Drive Electric said.

"We have 85 per cent renewable energy in New Zealand. There's a lot of potential in that.

"The flow-on effects from electric vehicles are cleaner air and less pollution and it helps New Zealand achieve its obligations under the COP21 agreement."

Drive Electric is a not-for-profit organisation which contributes to the sector from the new and used car, banking and finance, power and charging infrastructure perspectives.