Whangārei woman Kim Skovlund reckons electric vehicles are the way of the future - they save money, are good for the environment and ''in the end, actually make you money.''
So it's come as no surprise to Skovlund, who has had her 2011 Nissan Leaf since January, that Whangārei was been named the most the most electric vehicle friendly-town in New Zealand in the EVworld NZ Champions Award in Auckland at the weekend.
Whangārei has a big advantage over other regions. Northland is well connected and the region's electric vehicle spokesman, Joseph Camuso, said the big advantage Whangarei has is in knowing all the engineers from the three districts (Whangārei, Kaipara and Far North) and they can act very quickly to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure and make things happen.
"For example, the very first charger was installed in 11 days from no to go. That's how fast we can move," Camuso said.
"Northland's electric car users now have 13 charging stations to get around the north. They are installed in towns such as Kaiwaka, Matakohe, Ruakaka, Marsden Pt, Dargaville, Whangārei south, Whangārei central, Whangārei north, Tutukaka, Kawakawa, Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Kaitaia. Cooper's Beach, Pukenui and Waitiki Landing, are under construction and should be completed within a month making it possible to drive to Cape Reinga.
"Whangārei is well-served with charging stations and is open for EV visitors. We boast one of the country's highest ownership rate of electric vehicles (EVs), according to Transport Ministry data. Plans are in place to have charging stations about 50km apart to cater for more affordable types of electric vehicles, rather than top-end Teslas.''
Camuso a Northland Regional Council manager, said Whangārei held the NZ record for the most EVs (62) parked in one place. Christchurch and Auckland previously held the record.
Skovlund said getting an EV ass the family's second car was a no brainer.
''It's our first EV. We got it second hand for about $12,500, with very few kilometres on the clock. It used to cost about $100 to fill up (their second car) but this costs about $4.50 to fully charge and that gives me a range of about 130km. That's great for driving around town, where braking actually charges the battery up, but if I was driving to Auckland I'd stop and do a fast charge,'' she said.
''As it's our second vehicle;e we tend to use the first petrol car for the long distances, but the new generation EVs will give far more distance per charge.''
Skovlund said if people could afford the initial outlay for an EV they would find that the vehicle actually started to make them money after four or five years with the fuel cost savings.
''I wouldn't go back now and in about five years I'll either upgrade the batteries or the entire vehicle.''
Northpower, Northland Regional Council, Whangārei District Council, Northland District Health Board, local Evangelists and REV-UP have closely collaborated to pioneer EV adoption in New Zealand. In May 2014 Northpower opened NZ's first fast charger, located at Alexander Street aka "EV Mecca". The town boasts one of the highest concentration of EVs in New Zealand.
Whangārei has shown commitment to a very collaborative approach for a relatively small centre. The judges particularly commend Northland Regional Council on their 10 year plan "Vision Zero - zero emissions, zero crashes, zero hassles.