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12/3/2018 — General
Timing issue for EV battery charging

Major electricity retailers in New Zealand have been scolded in a new report which accuses them of impeding widespread use of electric vehicles.

Radio New Zealand’s energy correspondent Eric Frykberg reported that the Concept Consulting report, commissioned by the lines companies, Orion, Unison and Powerco, argued that greater use of electric vehicles (EVs) was essential, because they had no tailpipe emissions.

The electricity used to charge their batteries was overwhelmingly clean, coming from hydro, geothermal and wind, with relatively small amounts of coal and gas burnt for its generation, the report claimed.

However, Frykberg said under existing approaches to electricity pricing, EV uptake would be held back and electricity supply costs would be higher than they needed to be, it found.

“Without electricity pricing reform, our research shows costs to consumers could be higher by approximately $4 billion over the next 30 years, and vehicle emissions more than one-third greater in 2050,” Concept director Simon Coates said.

Radio NZ said that over 95% of New Zealand households were on flat-rate pricing for their power.

That meant it would make sense for a commuter coming home at the end of a hard day's work to plug in the car on the spot, because that would be the most convenient thing to do, and would carry no extra cost.

The report showed the effect would be to boost peak-time demand for electricity at a time when the system was sometimes already stretched by high demand for power over long cold nights in the middle of winter.

Coates said this might not just require more electricity generation, it could also require costly upgrades to the national grid.

“The existing pricing does not encourage smart charging of EV batteries.”

Coates said smarter charging could be achieved by rewarding consumers for charging in off-peak periods, such as between 10 pm to 6 am.

There could also be incentives to stagger charging among households, so not every car driver plugged in at the same time. Simon Coates called on the industry and Government to work together on the issue.

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Electric vehicles charging in Wellington. Photo: Alison Balance, Radio NZ.