Electrifying New Zealand’s transport sector makes a lot of commercial and environmental sense. As New Zealand’s grid has one of the world’s highest percentages of renewable energy, cars and transport vehicles account for a significant percentage of New Zealand’s carbon emissions. And with New Zealand’s electricity grid showing little growth in demand, it is not surprising that New Zealand’s utilities are prime promoters of electric cars.
Two of the country’s cleanest energy utilities, Meridian Energy and Mercury New Zealand, are very active in promoting the transition to electric vehicles.
Meridian Energy says it has been supporting its residential customers to take advantage of renewable energy at home with sharp electric vehicle (EV) tariffs. The company has now launched an Electric Car Plan that gives its customers 20 per cent off their electricity bill if they have an electric car. Launched in six regions, it offers a 20 discount on overnight charging rates, free charging stations, and one year’s free charging for electric vehicles.
The Electric Car Plan has a different rate for power during the day and night. The night rate is cheaper, and for those on the Electric Car plan the night rate – between 9pm and 7am – is lower still than the other day/ night plans.
Clients who join the Electric Car Plan before 31 August this year get help to cover the cost of charging their EV for a whole year. They receive up to a NZ$300 credit on their bill to recharge their EV. The NZ$300 is based on a 2015 Nissan Leaf charging overnight and with an average travel of 11,500 kilometres on Meridian’s Electric Car Standard Plan.
There is also a 20 per cent Prompt Payment Discount for paying the bill in full and on time; and rates are guaranteed for three years to protect from price increases. If they haven’t got one, clients also get a free smart meter.
The free charging stations, four at present, are in Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North. The service is run in conjunction with Meridian’s partner, Kiwi Property.
“We’re committed to supporting our customers to embrace new sustainable technology so we’re also going to cover the cost of charging their electric car for a year,” said the chairman, Chris Moller and the chief executive, Neal Barclay.
Meridian itself is also on target to convert half of its own passenger fleet to fully electric vehicles by June this year.
Meridian is also providing the power to Mevo – NZ’s first hybrid-electric car share scheme. Mevo owns a fleet of Audi A3 Sportback e-trons parked on-street in Wellington for use by its members. Clients get in and drive away. Mevo currently has three locations in Wellington City and plans to expand both in Wellington and to Auckland.
A new electric care share scheme is in Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region. Run by Yoogo, it has a pool of 100 fully-electric vehicles and charging stations. The cars include Hyundai Ioniq and BMWi3 vehicles. Meridian Energy is a Foundation Partner and Yoogo’s electricity provider.
Mercury New Zealand said it has worked with other businesses and the government since 2014 to create an environment ready for wider electric vehicle (EV) uptake and will continue to promote the benefits of powering all vehicles with electricity.
It has also been converting its own fleet of vehicles to electric models and by late last year had reached its goal – 77 vehicles – one year ahead of target.
Chief executive Fraser Whineray said that in November Mercury became one of the first New Zealand businesses to sign up to the global EV100 initiative to transition business fleets to EVs. Air New Zealand and Mercury together initiated a corporate initiative to influence over 30 leading New Zealand organizations and businesses to pledge to transition their fleets to at least 30 per cent electric in the next three years. Now is the time for Mercury to creatively promote EVs to a wider audience, said Mr Whineray and he will report more on this in the company’s 2018 annual report.
The New Zealand government is seeing success with its co-funding model for electric transport innovations, and Mr Whineray added that it is particularly exciting to see the number of initiatives that support the electrification of heavy transport.
Mercury has partnered with some e.bike retailers to offer discounts of up to NZ$500 to its customers. There are a large number of e.bikes in the ranges on offer.
Mercury is providing the power for The Rechargery for recharging e.bikes. The first is in Auckland. Bikers can charge their battery, get their bike serviced and have a coffee while they wait. Run by Big Street Bikers, riders can also rent, test or buy an e.bike.
Mercury is also helping to introducing e.scooters. It has partnered with Total Pro NZ to offer a NZ$250 e.scooter discount to Mercury customers. A range of models are available such as the BOOSTER for commuting or fun, the BOOSTER PLUS for daily commuters, the compact Eco for fun weekend riding, and the MASTER for weekend riding with more power.
Mercury has partnered with Plugshare, the New Zealand Government and Contact Energy to bring EV owners information on a national network of EV charging points. The Electric Highway app has the locations of all 630 charging stations. There is also a trip planner.
Last year Mercury released data showing how consumers were adjusting their EV charging behaviour to off-peak times in response to incentives. Running an electric car in New Zealand costs the equivalent of paying NZ 30 cents per litre of petrol.
Contact Energy says it first commited to having 30 per cent of its own cars as plug-in electric by 2019 – plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlanders – and having done that is now moving to have 100 per cent of its fleet as plug-ins if suitable vehicles are available.
There seem to be many e.bikes and e.scooters for New Zealand consumers to choose from. The missing ingredient for a large scale take up of electric cars is the lack of electric car models in our part of the world. But with so many models soon to be released by major manufacturers, and with so much work being done in New Zealand, it is easy to imagine that the take up of EVs could be relatively quick. That would be very good for electricity demand, for shareholders in New Zealand’s utilities, and for New Zealand’s excellent renewable energy credentials. (ASX: MEZ, MCY, CEN)