Electric car charging stations may be making an appearance in Horowhenua after discussions at a committee meeting last week saw members vote to recommend it to the council.
If they are installed, Horowhenua District Council would be likely to chip in $40,000 for two sites with up to four charging stations at each, probably located at the railway car park in Shannon, and at the new Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom cultural centre in Foxton, where ducting has already been installed.
The finance, audit and risk subcommittee voted to recommend that HDC makes a joint application with Kapiti Coast District Council and Electra to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund to install the stations based on a funding model split between the entities, along with electric vehicle charging network Charge Net.
For Horowhenua, HDC's contribution would likely be up to $40,000, which is 20 per cent of the total cost, the EECA would take on 40 per cent, while Electra and Charge Net would pay 20 per cent each. However, HDC communications lead Lacey Winiata said they would be looking at "maximising" the EECA portion up to a potential 50 per cent.
The proposal would be for fast charging stations, which generally see a vehicle obtain a 100 kilometre range within a 30 minute charge. Slow chargers fully charge vehicles overnight, while medium ones take around four hours for a full charge.
The subcommittee meeting involved discussion around the opinion that installing the charging infrastructure in Horowhenua would fill the gap in infrastructure, reducing "range anxiety" for electric vehicle drivers, as well as encouraging those drivers to stop and contribute to the local economy.
However, subcommittee member and Horowhenua deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said he had some concerns over the plan, saying ratepayers should not have to subsidise the electric vehicle community, but rather the funding for the chargers should be reflected in costs paid by their users.
"I reversed the conversation and [thought about] what the outcome would be if the electric vehicle community was asked to subsidise a new petrol station," he said. "[The proposal] sounds great, but if you put it into a commercial situation, ratepayers shouldn't be asked to pay horrendous fuel tax and subsidise the out-of-district electric vehicle community."
He said electric vehicle technology was improving all the time, meaning the cars could get a longer range on a single charge, so "filling the gaps" by putting infrastructure in places like those suggested may be rendered unnecessary in future.
Mr Bishop said while environmental considerations were important, the chargers could also be installed later, if there proved to be a real demand for them, and that 'sustainable' meant economically sustainable too.
If the plan goes ahead, Electra will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the charging stations, while Charge Net will manage billing and electricity use. HDC will only be required to look after existing road surfaces, or new ones around the stations.
The number of electric vehicles on New Zealand roads is currently doubling year on year, and the NZ Transport Authority has stated a target of having 64,000 being used by Kiwis by 2021.
While HDC has yet to decide on the charger proposal, its Long Term Plan 2015-2025 promotes 'a sustainable environment' as one of its community outcomes.