Time to elect electric? 


Over the weekend our Auckland visiting guests brought with them their brand new all-electric car. Made in China this quietly gliding beast came equipped with so many electrically driven toys that a NASA-styled training almost felt de rigueur.

I was permitted to drive this extraordinary vehicle, to watch as it was recharged and to take in the wonders of modern motoring at its strangest.

Your mobile phone (which rests during its journey on a charging pad – no plug-in necessary) doubles as the ignition key. Having used the phone to unlock the door (no need to touch the phone), I sat in the driver’s seat and looked for the starter button, only to be gently informed by the proud new lady owner that as soon as I placed my ample posterior onto the seat the engine had started,

But I remonstrated that it had not started as I could not hear it. Well, I got that wrong. The super-smart engine was indeed running and all I had to do was to engage the mini gear stick into Drive, the brake would come free and a gentle pressure on the accelerator was all that was needed.

This was a short journey to the supermarket – possibly the most carefully I have ever driven, fearful of committing some motoring electronic sin. But it was wonderful. On the madam’s verbal instruction to ‘floor’ it my body sank back into the electronically adjusted seat and I felt like an airline pilot going through V2.

Meanwhile a large central 10-inch screen like tablet was keeping me informed as to battery charge details, remaining distance to go prior to the next charge and the amount of battery power still remaining. Once parked the screen turned into a birds-eye photo of the car to show me how close I was – or not – to the nearest obstruction. Now how does a camera (possibly plural) situated at wheel level permit a view from several meters above? Best not to ask as you would only get a blank stare from me.

We plugged it in to one of the two double charging stations on the edge of Victoria square. But it refused to charge until the other vehicle sharing the same charger had completed its battery top-up. What was really interesting was watching the small screen on the kerbside charger maintain a running tally as to the cost of the charge. This vehicle had left eastern Auckland with a full battery taking just over two hours to reach Cambridge. The battery, fully charged at departure, had dropped to 62 per cent. The top-up back to 90 per cent (I could not understand that bit) cost well under $10. So crude maths tells me that a full ‘tank’ would come to $35 at the Victoria Park commercial (as in make a profit) site. Charging at home is much cheaper.

91 octane petrol hit a record in Auckland the other day at $3.15. Using 50 litres as a tank size that brings the full tank top-up to an eye-watering $157.50. Now I am well aware that the capital cost of a new electric vehicle is high but as my interests are tending towards a hybrid that does not require an electric plug it starts to look very attractive. That apart from wanting to save the planet.

Ms Swarbrick and Mr Shaw have a lot going for them in their earnest drive towards reduction of carbon-related planetary damage. While I shake my head at some of their political antics, I do find myself giving serious consideration to dropping the gas guzzler in favour of alternative fuel usage. Politically driven antics to provide very short-term lollies available (aka the current ‘clean’ car rebate) are merely that. Antics. But we are heading towards a national election, and it is time for the two major parties to come clean on how they see a carbon-reduced future. Starting with vehicles is actually relatively easy. But at the local political level one wonders what gas-guzzlers the local Waipa Council have on their books – not only those used for every-day transport of staff going about their work but to the larger cars provided for the full personal use of senior managers? And the Mayor. This is local body election year. Perhaps Waipa DC – a very honest and relatively open body – could respond with their go-greener plans?

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