The Northland Regional Council (NRC) is 'leading the charge' on electric vehicles, with its 10-strong fleet believed to be among the largest of any local authority nationally.
Regional councillor Justin Blaikie says the council currently has seven full electric vehicles (EV) and three plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PEHV). It also has a raft of 80 solar panels atop its Water St headquarters, installed three years ago, which help charge them.
Councillor Blaikie, who represents the council's Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency, says the NRC's foray into EV ownership began several years ago, driven both by the potential long-term financial savings and environmental benefits they offer.
The current electric fleet comprises two Nissan LEAF (which offer a 120km driving range per charge) five new Renault Zoe (a 250km range) and three Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with a range of about 35km on electric and 500km on petrol.
Councillor Blaikie says because of the nature of some of the council's work – and the distances and terrain involved – it would not be practical and/or cost-effective to swap to an all-electric/PHEV fleet in the foreseeable future.
However, it was aiming to see as many of its 60-plus vehicle fleet as possible using some sort of electric technology over the next few years.
He says the council's 20kW rooftop 'solar array' currently generates enough power to drive about 500 EV kilometres per day, cutting about $26,000 from the council's annual fuel bill.
Northland has been a keen early adopter of EV technology, with New Zealand's first fast-charging station opened in central Whangarei in May 2014 and Cr Blaikie says the regional council is proud to support the rapidly advancing technology.
The region now boasts a number of public electric car charging stations, including several in Whangarei as well as at Mangawhai, Kaiwaka, Dargaville and Kawakawa.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and national fast-charging network operator Charge.net announced they will jointly fund a roughly $300,000 project to install five new charging stations in the Far North by mid-2018, with stations in Kaikohe, Waipapa, Mangonui, Houhora and Waitiki Landing and will enable locals and tourists alike to travel the entire region in EVs.
Meanwhile, Cr Blaikie says in a separate deal with Te Ahu Charitable Trust, Charge.net also has plans to install a Kaitaia-based fast charge station shortly.
FILL ‘ER UP: Regional councillor Justin Blaikie, right, and council staff member Joseph Camuso prepare to charge one of the NRC’s new Renault Zoe electric vehicles.