Electric vehicles: Could getting one be right for you?

Posted at 10:00am Tuesday 06 Apr, 2021

Richard Browning would not recommend a Nissan Leaf.
Richard Browning would not recommend a Nissan Leaf.

Beryl Good thinks her Tesla Model 3 is absolutely fabulous.
Beryl Good thinks her Tesla Model 3 is absolutely fabulous.

Julian Ostling, left, believes a switch to e-coaches was inevitable.
Julian Ostling, left, believes a switch to e-coaches was inevitable.

Electric vehicle charging station locations.
Electric vehicle charging station locations.

In an environmentally-conscious world, electric vehicles (EVs) are offered as a way to slash our greenhouse gas emissions. But they often come with a big price tag, take ages to charge and have a limited range. Are they really practical? Alisha McLennan spoke to some Mahurangi EV owners about their experiences.

Stephen and Nikki Dunn, Tauhoa
Vehicle: 2011 Nissan Leaf

Stephen says their main motivation behind switching to an EV was economic rather than environmental. Although it cost twice the amount they would normally budget for a new car, in its three years of use it paid itself off through savings in fuel and servicing costs. The only thing they have done in terms of maintenance is replace the tyres. Even registering an EV is cheaper.

“It's just more efficient,” Stephen says.

It cost them $3.50 in electricity to slow charge at home, and $7 at the New World fast chargers, or free with BP's fast charger in Warkworth.

Initially, Nikki used to travel 160km a day, which was more than the Leaf's advertised range of 120km, but she had opportunities to charge the car throughout the day, so initially this was not an issue.

Sadly though, the battery began to deteriorate after three years. It got to the point where the car could not even get to Warkworth and back.  

Currently, the car sits unused in the driveway as Steve says new Nissan Leaf batteries are currently unavailable in New Zealand.

“We would willingly spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a new battery,” Steve says, “The car is actually a fun, powerful car to drive.”

Lorna Lewis, Warkworth
Vehicle: 2013 Nissan Leaf

Lorna Lewis and her husband have had a 2013 Nissan Leaf for the last six years and their experiences closely mirror those of Stephen and Nikki.  

“My husband specifically bought it for work to save petrol costs, and it has definitely paid itself off.”

The couple have also had zero servicing costs.

However, the battery in their  car has similarly deteriorated and now has a range of only 70km. Her husband is still able to use the car on weekdays to get to Albany, but only because his workplace has installed a charging station.  

Lorna also uses the car on weekends and uses public chargers in Silverdale and Albany.

“People are really tolerant. I've never had a problem with someone hassling me to hurry up,” she says.

When she uses a charging station, Lorna always leaves a piece of paper with her mobile number on it so people queued up can contact her. This way she can leave the car while she waits for it to charge, which takes 20 to 30 minutes charge.

“You do have to be really organised and plan your trip,” she says.

TailorMade Computers, Warkworth
Vehicle: Nissan Leaf

Warkworth's TailorMade Computers needed to install a workplace charger to facilitate the use of its Nissan Leaf. The car is driven to Warkworth every day from Helensville. In theory, it should have sufficient range to complete the round trip. But in reality the car starts to scream in Japanese that it needs a re-charge on the way back to Helensville.

Having a charger at work also saves TailorMade employees time as there are often queues at public fast chargers. On balance, TailorMade employee Richard Browning would not recommend a Leaf after his experiences with it at work. He says a plug-in hybrid would be more effective for their workplace to facilitate callouts.

Beryl Good, Warkworth
Vehicle: 2021 Tesla Model 3

Owners of the Nissan Leafs tended to avoid long road trips, but Beryl Good's Tesla has no such difficulty.

The Tesla has a range of 657km and Beryl recently drove it to Tauranga. Even with having to turn around at Orewa to pick up a forgotten wallet, the car still made it to Tauranga with 13 per cent of its battery power left.

“It cost $36 to charge the car up to 80 per cent at the Tauranga Pak'nSave, which I thought was pretty good,” Beryl says.

The car took an hour and a half to charge. The car cost $98,000 and Tesla offers an 8-year warranty on its batteries.

Beryl would heartily recommend the car.

“I think it's fabulous,” she says.

Mahu Express, Snells Beach
Vehicle: TCE12 Coach

Mahu Express is in the process of switching to two electric coaches. Director Julian Ostling says this was an inevitable decision for the company.

“It's the future, really. We knew that we would have to go to electric sooner or later anyway,” he says.

Switching to electric has required Mahu Express to install a charger at Snells Beach School where the buses will charge overnight.

The batteries for the coaches have a 9-year warranty and are being leased.


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