Wellington Scoop

Holding back the green car revolution


Wellingtonians seem to be getting behind the electric car revolution – to the benefit of the climate and their pocketbooks. Electric car registrations in the capital have more than doubled in the last 12 months, with 248 now silently whizzing around the city, and 469 across the region.

Every single one of those cars has taken a fossil-fuelled and highly-polluting vehicle off the road, to the benefit of the climate and the city’s residents. So has the Wellington City Council been helping steer us into this bright electric-powered future? Not on your life.

A quick check of the ChargeNet website shows that Wellington has exactly the same number of electric car charging points as it did a year ago. So if you need a fast charge for that snazzy new electric car, that means a single, solitary charger at the Z Energy station in Vivian Street. That’s it.

Wellington City (population 203,000) now has the same number of fast charge points as Masterton (population 23,000). And a recent trip to Whakatane (population 19,000) showed it had two public charging points in a convenient location next to the shops and the cafes. It seems everyone is getting on board with the idea that electric cars are part of the solution to our climate crisis … except the people around the council table in Wellington.

This isn’t the first time we’ve visited this subject. Back before Christmas, we lamented the state of Wellington’s sustainable infrastructure, and drew the comparison between the good work being done in Australian cities and the desperate lack of action in the capital of 100% Pure Aotearoa. In response, Councillor Andy Foster rushed into print:

Discussions are well advanced with several technology providers. You will see these start to be rolled out in the first half of next year.

All good, we thought. The timing of our article might have just been a bit off, and we were hovering on the cusp of the council finally leaping into action and doing its part to enable the electric car revolution. Even incoming transport portfolio leader Chris Calvi-Freeman was singing from the same song-sheet:

As Cllr Andy Foster has stated above, discussions are well advanced with several technology providers. You will see these start to be rolled out in the first half of next year.

But that was December, and now it’s August. So far, these putative discussions with technology providers have failed to achieve anything that electric car owners (or fossil-fuel emissions-breathers) might recognise as progress. There certainly aren’t any more charging points.

Of course, the Wellington City Council is not the only organisation dragging its heels on enabling the future. Over at the Regional Council, they seem to think that simply having meetings will bring down the temperature of the planet. Rather than spending a single dollar on actual infrastructure, they have “convened a Regional Electric Vehicle Working Group. It meets quarterly and is open to sector stakeholders and interested parties from throughout NZ. If you would like to get involved in the development of a plan for the first 100 charging sites in the region or attend REV-WG sessions, please contact us”.

Apparently, all those hundreds of electric vehicles buzzing around the region are a mere distraction from the true business of our councils – holding meetings and issuing quarterly update reports.And we can see why – we’re sure that electric car owners who are looking slightly worried at the state of their battery charge while they drive into Wellington would find a Working Group meeting far more useful than – say – a conveniently located public charging point.

All this would be excellent material for a Monty Python sketch on the ineptitude of local government, if it wasn’t for the fact that the planet is overheating as we speak. Are electric cars a panacea? No, of course they’re not. But they are a useful tool to reduce emissions and make the future less worse than it’s otherwise going to be. So it would be helpful if our councils could – you know – actually take action, rather than just talking about it.

And when it comes to rolling out the infrastructure to support the electric cars that Wellingtonians are buying in droves, we can only ask of Councillors Foster and Calvi-Freeman – when you said “in the first half of next year”, which year did you mean?

The top photo shows the charge point in Masterton.


  1. Neil Douglas, 23. August 2017, 8:57

    The article raises an interesting point as to whose job it is to provide charging stations for electric cars? Since when has it been the City Council’s? They don’t provide petrol stations. Many might think that BP, Mobil and Z Energy will provide the charging points but why should they? They are in the oil business and on this note, it should be mentioned that there are plans for the Z Energy station on Customhouse Quay / Whitmore to be replaced with an office block. So one less place to fuel up.

    I guess there will have to be plenty of spaces too since it won’t be 2 minute fuel up but a 20-30 minute charge. I see the Victoria University Vice Chancellor is suggesting a car park with electricity charging points of they get permission to demolish the 87 dwellings of Gordon Wilson Flats on the Terrace.

    To my knowledge, electric vehicles don’t pay any charges for publicly provided charging stations. Indeed, they don’t pay anything for using the roads at the moment. So I think it will be Power Companies that lead the initial charge to make money out of charging electric vehicles. Your photo shows a PowerCo charging Point. PowerCo is owned 58% by the Queensland Government so the people of Masterton can thank the good folk of Queensland for their charging point. Oh and luckily unlike Queensland, NZ doesn’t burn much coal to produce electricity.

    I also wonder how much electricity prices will surge once loads of people start plugging in their vehicles to charge up at home or the office.

  2. PCGM, 23. August 2017, 10:07

    Neil Douglas – actually, the article doesn’t raise that point at all. It merely highlights the fact that Councillors publicly committed to increasing the number of charging points in the first half of this year, and then didn’t deliver. Although given the apparent inability of the Wellington City Council to deliver on a great many things they’ve promised – see also the Town Hall strengthening and the Movie Museum – perhaps that shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.

    Your implication that electric cars are freeloading is also incorrect. The ChargeNet service is fully commercial, owners pay for their electricity consumption at the same rates as everyone else, their vehicle insurance costs the same, they still have to pay for parking, and they subsidize the roading network through general taxation, just the same as every other New Zealander. The only concession for owning an electric car is in the registration fees and Road User Charges.

    But perhaps your overall sentiment is correct – that Councils do not have a role in decreasing climate change, and that this should be left to the market, as many of the neoliberal persuasion contend. If so, it might be helpful if someone would inform the Councillors who frequently claim otherwise on social media, and perhaps let the Mayor know as well, so that he can delete his tweet from earlier in the week where he was extolling the increase in electric cars in the region.

  3. KB, 23. August 2017, 10:25

    I indeed think charging points should be ubiquitous on Wellington streets, and I’m kind of shocked that councils aren’t jumping on it as a new source of revenue (pay for electricity as well as parking when using inner city parking spaces). However it should be noted that most, if not all, electric car owners can charge their vehicles at home. That’s one of the big advantages of electric cars of course – you can even charge them free if you have excess home solar generation.

    Most EVs are being used in a range that means they don’t need to be charged while a user has taken them somewhere – charging can wait until the users have finished their daily commute and returned home.

  4. Neil Douglas, 23. August 2017, 11:59

    The Press Release for the Masterton PowerCo Electric Vehicle charging station on Dixon Street which opened in June 2017 says it will take 15-20 minutes to charge a battery to 80%, giving an 80km range and costing $8-$10. This is probably for a Nissan 1 Leaf. A Nissan 2 Leaf should give a longer range of 120kms. So probably enough juice to get back to Wellington.

  5. Cr Calvi-Freeman, 23. August 2017, 13:32

    Several more fast and medium rate electric car charging stations are about to go in, in the CBD. The sites have been selected, consultations undertaken and traffic resolutions approved. As soon as I get an update on implementation I’ll post this. More car share spaces are also going in, to support the growing patronage of car share schemes. We’re also looking at what we can do to assist with electric vehicle charging in the ‘burbs for people who don’t have garages or carports with power supplies.

  6. Cr Calvi-Freeman, 23. August 2017, 14:17

    More information from the sustainable transport team at the WCC:

    The Council has been actively pursuing charging partnerships – we have 13 charging stations going in over the next few months, and last week earned funding for 50 more from the Low Emissions Vehicles contestable fund. There will be a test unit up and running this week in Kapiti weather permitting (we are working with regional partners as well as private sector partners). Rest assured we are not sitting on our hands. To add to this, Mevo (an EV car share) has six vehicle spaces on the waterfront operating with 33 more in train for the next couple of months.

    There’s no doubt that it is crunch time for the Council. We are looking at quadrupling the number of fast chargers and increasing the number of slow chargers by 15x around Wellington City alone.

    Details of our recent record of support for EVs:

    In the past 12 months, the Wellington City Council welcomed several EV initiatives to our city, including:
    – With the Regional Council, we co-hosted the first regional EV symposium, bringing international and local speakers to bear as we set our course towards an EV future.
    – We welcomed the city’s first Council-sponsored chargers at Zealandia with 3 chargers installed.
    – We supported and welcomed the launch and expansion of Mevo EV car sharing, a team funded and upskilled by our Low Carbon Challenge now sponsored by EECA, with 6 vehicles in operation on land provided by the city at the waterfront.
    – The announcement of a partnership with Spark to deliver 10 SparkPlugs on phone boxes across the city, providing for EV charging without cluttering our footpaths in the walking capital of New Zealand.
    – The approval of the conversion of 13 high-value carparks for the purpose of EV charging across the city, including 3 fast chargers.
    – We co-sponsored and advocated for the EVolocity schools education programme to come to the Wellington region, partnering with local councils and utilities across the region to get 19 high schools involved in the EV revolution teaching build and repair skills.

    Looking ahead:

    In the next 12 months, the WCC will welcome several more milestones:
    – The installation of the 13 chargers approved, including the announcement of the Fast Charging partnership, in the next few months.
    – The kickoff of a residential charging pilot project which won funding from the EECA Low Emissions Vehicles Contestable Fund to enable the 30% who don’t have access to off-street parking to own EVs. This will see a further 50 chargers installed.
    – The potential implementation of 33 (or more) Mevo EV car sharing spaces across the central city which we are currently processing, representing a massive commitment to car sharing and electric vehicles.