25 Sep 2015

Electric Car Chargers

From New Zealand Society, 2:10 pm on 25 September 2015

“We’re not entirely sane. We’re doing this for love, not for money”. Steve West.

This is an image of Dee and Steve West and their www.charge.net.nz Tritium Veefil  fast charger

Dee and Steve West and their www.charge.net.nz Tritium Veefil fast charger Photo: RNZ David Steemson

Electric vehicle champion, Aucklander Steve West plans to install  a network of roadside electric car fast-chargers throughout New Zealand, even though he says  it’s a terrible business case! Some of the charging stations will be ready by the end of the year. 39-year-old Steve West made his money through software development and he’s about to take possession of his third Tesla... one of the world’s most luxurious and longest range electric cars built so far.

If you look for Tesla on You Tube  these days there are lot of clips about the  amazing   acceleration from the latest car’s new dual engines.

There’s a gutsy whine, as the Tesla S P85D engines kick into life, followed by appreciative gasps all round from driver and passengers. Tesla claims the new car will reach 100 kilometres an hour in only 3.2 seconds. Tesla says that’s 1G of acceleration, which  www.gizmomag.com  says puts this car right up there with McLaren, Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Steve West didn’t have his new double engine Tesla yet, when I talked to him a few days ago.  But it was on its way from Australia.

We had to go for a drive in his regular singled engine Tesla S for which he paid a mere 180-thousand dollars last year. It is certainly a thing of beauty… looks a bit like a Jaguar, maybe an Aston Martin Rapide or a Maserati Quattroporte.

This is an image of Steve West's second Tesla

Steve West's second Tesla Photo: RNZ David Steemson

This is  an image of the front of Steve West's Tesla

Front Photo: RNZ David Steemson

This is an image of the rear  of Steve West's second Tesla

Rear Photo: RNZ David Steemson

Of course I’m here to talk to Steve and his wife, public relations consultant Dee West about  their plans for a nationwide network of charging stations. The Wests don't expect  to be making a profit any time soon either. Initially that network would service a fleet of only about 800-vehicles on New Zealand’s roads that are either fully electric or electric plug in hybrids. About three hundred and fifty are all electric Nissan Leafs and when Steve's new Tesla hits the road, there will be a total of eleven Teslas here. But Steve believes "build a network, and the cars will come".

Steve and Dee have to show me how their “Tritium Veefil” fast charger station works.

This is an image of Steve West charging up the little Nissan Leaf. Ten dollars for a full tank!

Steve West charging up the little Nissan Leaf. Ten dollars for a full tank! Photo: RNZ David Steemson

Not very strangely at all, it kinda looks like a petrol pump. You ‘fill up’ by plugging the bowser thingie into an opening in the car, much as you’d expect to find in a petrol driven car.

Cost to charge up the Leaf ? Ten dollars. TheTesla?  30-bucks, thanks. Steve West reckons to get the same performance in a petrol driven car it would cost up to 100-dollars to cover the Tesla’s range of 400-kilometres.

As Steve starts the Tesla, I stand outside to get some noise, any noise… but there’s barely a whirr. I do record some good buzzing when I shove a microphone right under the mud guard. Hardly fair… but it does sound nicely electrical. Inside though, there’s little to hear; just the window wipers on intermittent and as we drive off, the indicators.

This is an image of the dashboard touchscreen, showing Steve's in control

On the dashboard touchscreen, Steve's in control Photo: RNZ David Steemson

Then Steve shows off this car’s stupendous acceleration, point 7 of a G force he informs me, as my body flattens against the back of the seat. There is clearly something here for power junkies. And former petrol heads too?

This is  an image of the  radio station read out on the Tesla dashboard , showing Radio New Zealand National.

The Radio Station Photo: RNZ David Steemson

But the truth is if you’re traveling round New Zealand, outside main centres, there is no easy way of charging electric cars. And even in the main centres many of the charge stations are at Nissan dealerships, says Steve. Fine if you have a Nissan Leaf, but not, if you don’t. Round the country, camp grounds have the right plugs, but none of them has fast charging equipment , so you’d  have to spend a night charging up.

“ A tedious and lengthy  journey. It wouldn’t be fun” , says Steve. And that  prompted him to form www.charge.net.nz.

“We want to roll out 75-charging stations across the country. That’s a bare minimum really”.Steve plans to set them up in places such as supermarkets, or maybe shopping centres. He’s talking to folk, but he’s not saying who.

“Of course they want to know what’s in it for them. It would bring customers to their doors, and the public relations value would be great”. If they want a chunk of any profits Steve laughs ruefully, "There is no profit to be had. Maybe in the future…seven to ten years, when there are a lot more  electric vehicles on the road. We do not have short  sighted investors wanting a short term return”.

Charge.net.nz is not the only pebble on the beach thinking about a network of charging stations for electric cars. Steve says the big infrastructure company Vector is interested. He wants all networks to be compatible with each other. Anything  that can be  done to make it easier for the electric car owner to fill’er up!

This is an image of the charge.net.nz logo

The charge.net.nz logo Photo: RNZ David Steemson

New Zealand spends 8-billion dollars a year on petrol. The equivalent electricity requirement would cost a mere 2-billion. We should all be powering our cars with electricity…100-percent New Zealand  made and 80-percent renewable!!