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Fuel-free, way to the future

Following the news of a plan to install Wairarapa’s second electric car charging station in Masterton in the coming months, Times-Age reporter Beckie Wilson hit the road with Wairarapa’s Green Party candidate John Hart in his new Nissan Leaf to see what all the hype was about.


Mr Hart has owned his 2015 Nissan Leaf for only a week, but can already see the benefits of the fuel-free vehicle.

Mr Hart said he was “saving the world one car at a time”.

He had been considering buying an electric car for about a year, but knew all along that he “really wanted one”.
“The cost of fuel is a big one,” he said.

“In a reasonably short time you can save a lot of money.”

While he is still getting used to the press-to-start button and the quiet hum of the battery motor, he said it’s “surprisingly zippy and is much more efficient for day-to-day running”.

The motor of an electric car is four times more efficient than an internal combustion engine, according to the Charge Net NZ website.

For Mr Hart, buying the electric car was the next logical step to minimise his carbon footprint.

As co-founder of technological innovator Fab Lab, he has always had a bit of a taste for new technology.

“I built my own 3D printer from a kit about six years ago” — that was before the general population had even heard of a 3D printer.

“We have also been organic farming on our sheep and beef farm for about seven years too.”

In May last year, the government announced a strategy to double the number of electric vehicles on New Zealand roads each year, to reach 64,000 by 2021.

Mr Hart bought his 2015 Leaf as a second-hand import from Japan — where an EV can be imported for less than $20,000 — and delivered to Masterton VTNZ, where it was tested before he picked it up.

Beginning with just 50 sales in December 2010, the Nissan Leaf has grown to become the world’s best-selling EV, with over 252,000 Nissan Leafs currently cruising the road worldwide according to its makers.

“We plug it in at home overnight and it’s fully charged.” The home car chargers simply plug into a power point, just like any other appliance.

“You get about 140km on a full battery, depending where you charge it. It takes over night to charge at home, but faster chargers can take about an hour to charge up to 80 per cent,” he said.

The Charge Net New Zealand unit, one recently installed in Featherston, will cost $8 to $10 to use. It will charge an electric vehicle’s battery to 80 per cent within 15-25 minutes.

While not everyone can upright afford an electric car, the people who buy one now will reap the benefits early, he said.
“Like all new technology, someone has to go first.

“Part of the problem is it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. They [people] don’t want to buy a car without the infrastructure.”

He said it’s great the Masterton District Council is on board with Charge Net New Zealand and is installing a car charger as it will encourage more Wairarapa people to consider the investment, and hopefully draw electric car owners to the region.

He hopes the number of EV owners in the region will increase now the charger infrastructure is installed.

“Maybe it will trigger interest at least.”

There are about two or three EV owners in the region that he knows of, he said.

He’s even had three friends in Wellington who have bought an electric car in the past year, the interest is growing.


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