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Power plus .. Stuart Whitham is full of praise for his Nissan electric car. PHOTO: RACHEL MACDONALD

By RACHEL MACDONALD

North Cantabrians toying with the idea of buying an electric car, but concerned about running out of charge on the motorway or halfway up Tram Road, should take another look at the option, says Stuart Whitham of Waikuku.

He reckons medium-distance commuting is the electric car’s sweet spot and says huge savings can be made in commutes to Christchurch from towns such as Rangiora and Amberley.

“As a rule of thumb, running costs are about 20 percent of the cost of running a petrol car. Therefore, if your weekly fuel bill is $100, your equivalent electric cost will be approximately $20,” he says.

“From Waikuku, I have often commuted to town starting with an 80% charge and returned with a 20% charge in my second-generation 2013 Nissan Leaf.

“We also often take the children into Christchurch twice on Saturdays for sport. This works well with a short charge at home in between trips. Or, alternatively, we can drop in at the fast chargers at Northwood New World or Johns Rd Raeward Fresh for a bit of extra charge to get us home.”

Overnight charging can be done via a standard three-pin wall socket, or a faster Level 2 charger can be installed at home for about $1500.

“Maintenance costs are also much lower. There is no oil or oil filter to change. Electric cars have only about 200 moving parts, versus 2000 moving parts on a fossil fuel car. This translates into less wear, fewer worn parts and fewer breakdowns. The regenerative braking also converts forward motion back into electricity, ensuring much lower wear on brake pads than in fossil cars.”

He says his family bought the Leaf in July 2015 for $26,000, and have driven 24,000 km a year.

“This would have consumed 2,400 litres of petrol per year in our old car, costing approximately $4800 per year. In the electric car, this distance uses $960 in electricity, resulting in savings of about $3800 per year.

“Over 3$13,000 in fuel costs plus reduced servicing costs. Battery life and therefore range has dropped by 10% over that time, suggesting that the battery will have a useful range for at least 300,000km.”

Some people say that electric cars are only town cars, Stuart says. However, while they are great for in town, the distances those vehicles travel are unlikely to be the same as commuting from out of town, and therefore savings are greater for out-of-town commuting.

“And, with hundreds of fast chargers now available around New Zealand, long trips are also viable, but the cost savings are not as great as charging at home.”

Environmental credentials are also very positive for electric cars. Even when they are run on a “dirty” grid, the vehicles are shown to have significantly lower life-cycle carbon emissions than fossil cars.

According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, on a “clean” hydro-electric grid like New Zealand’s, life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions are 80% lower than those of fossil fuel cars.