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Future EVs may stress network capacity

New Zealand’s current electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is going to struggle to keep up with the future demand for EVs, according to a new “green paper” released by New Zealand company, Vector.

“As battery technology costs continue to fall, car battery sizes increase, and customer demand for longer-range EVs grow, the current model of public charging stations cannot be assumed to be the default charging infrastructure of choice beyond early adopters,” says the report.

“Vector is seeing clear trends of longer range vehicles, requiring larger capacity batteries, and customer behaviour that suggests a trend towards faster charging times and clustering of chargers in some areas on the network. These trends necessitate the need for a strategy on EV charging for New Zealand that is future-proof.”

“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.”

Consumer’s views on EVs

Vector found that EVs are perceived positively in New Zealand – a recent customer survey found that 60 per cent of New Zealanders would consider buying an EV, as opposed to 54 per cent in the UK. This high interest is distributed evenly throughout the country and across all demographic groups.

The number of EVs on NZ roads is currently low (6,884 EVs were registered in February), but uptake is expected to increase exponentially, achieving the government target of 64 000 EVs (2 per cent of current car fleet) by 2021, or even more if the current growth rate continues.

Uncertainty around EV range

Currently 92 per cent of EVs in Auckland have battery capacities between 10kWh and 30kWh, which corresponds to an electric range of roughly 50 to 150 km.

However, in the next couple of years, the market share of EVs with longer electric ranges is expected to grow, with new EV models having an average range of 350-500km.

“Larger batteries take longer to charge and might even make over-night charging practically unfeasible unless faster charging technologies are adopted,” says the report.

Vector has assessed the capability of the existing network to accommodate EVs based on different penetration rates, battery sizes, charging capacities and across different part of the day.

“The analysis highlights that the connection of fast and rapid chargers will stress or surpass the network capacity even at penetrations as low as 10 per cent.”

The report concludes that effective electricity network integration will be the foundation for successful EV uptake.

“In order to ensure customer choice and support EV uptake in NZ, future network investment and integration risks need to be considered today while taking into account technical, regulatory, affordability and societal implications.”

Click here to read the full report. 

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Canterbury infrastructure upgrade

Economic Development and Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced an integrated approach to transport planning and infrastructure investment in Canterbury.

During the launch of the refreshed Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy, in Christchurch, Bridges said that the Canterbury region has a world-class international airport, sea ports and inland ports and a series of natural disasters, including earthquarkes, storms and fires, have highlighted vulnerabilities in the region’s transport system.

“That’s why we’ve developed a strategy that focusses on developing a transport network that prioritises network resilience, moving people and freight efficiently around the region, supports visitors, and improves road safety and social connectedness,” he said.

Government funding will be provided to Canterbury for the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and other sector partners to prepare for multi-modal transport strategies across the South Island, alongside Regional Transport Committees.

Meanwhile, Christchurch’s $112 million Russley Road upgrade is on track to open early next year, several months ahead of schedule.

“The early completion of the project would help relieve congestion and support economic growth in the Canterbury region,” Bridges says.

“Good weather, combined with the contractors McConnell Dowell Downer being able to bring on board extra resources and skilled staff has seen about 10 months shaved off the timetable.

“Innovation has also played a part, by designing and building the elliptical roundabout, the contractors have been able to minimise disruptions to the work schedule and keep traffic moving.

“In essence, the traffic has travelled around the site, limiting the need to continually change traffic management and letting the contractors get on with the job,” Mr Bridges says.

Mr Bridges says by the end of next month traffic would be travelling from Christchurch Airport to the city under the overbridge, and by the end of the year traffic on State Highway 1 would travel over the overbridge. This project is now expected to be completed early 2018.

The Russley Road upgrade is one of the six sections of the $300-$350 million Western Corridor upgrade from Belfast to Hornby to a four-lane, median-separated highway. Three of the six sections are completed with the remaining three are underway and will be completed by the end of next year.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, improve traffic times, provide better walking and cycling connections between the airport and city, improve safety and support economic growth by providing better connections to the airport.

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