A NZ wide road trip in an EV? Yeah, nah

BMW I3, a funky, cool city car, not suitable for the Auckland to Wellington blast.

A friend of mine has a BMW I3 as his company car at the moment. He gets a new car roughly every six months and so decided to grab one to see if he could live with an electric vehicle on a daily basis. Well actually it’s a kind of a hybrid in that it has what BMW call a ‘range extender’ which is a small petrol engine that can help by charging the battery when needed. He loves it.

Well to put that in context, he loves it for a city car. Because he’s a petrolhead, the big draw-card for him is the amazing grunt off the line. These things really are pretty powerful. The next biggest attractant for him is the free power: he gets free, (read company supplied), juice at his work. As a city car, for getting him to work or the kids to school he says you can’t beat it.

I had a drive in it the other day. Certainly I was impressed with the acceleration, but after playing with that a couple of times, I was over it. Maybe I’m just getting old. At the end of the day, it is just a sort of weird looking toy car to me. I figure if I can’t put a sheet of corrugated iron inside it, it just isn’t big enough for me.

As a part of evaluating the car for everyday use, he recently took a trip from Ellerslie to Tauranga and back for a two-day trip. I tell you, there is no way I would bother, and he won’t be doing the trip in that car again either.

Too much thinking involved, you see. He knew that he would need the range extender to get him all the way to Tauranga as it is near enough to 200kms one way. Problem was, if he waited until the battery power was nearly drained, that would have occurred at the bottom of a sizeable hilly range and the range extender wouldn’t have provided enough grunt to get up and over and then it would kick into limp mode which would see him crawling up the hill at 30 odd kms per hour getting in the way of all the people with real cars.

As he knew that the range extender wouldn’t kick in until the battery had been used up to about 30% of its range, he had to time when he manually started getting a charge-up from it so there was enough battery power to actually get over the hills! As I said, way too much thinking involved.

So it was interesting to see an article in Stuff this week advising us that we are almost at the position where we could do a road trip around New Zealand on battery power alone, simply by using the existing charging network!

Apparently you can plug your EV in here.

Of course, of the 555 charging spots shown on the plugshare website, only about 100 of them are proper fast chargers, the rest being caravan plugs at campsites etc.

The upshot of the Stuff article is that it can be done, just, but with cars getting more capacity and the infrastructure getting better, it will all work out in the end. Quote.

Because [fast chargers] allow you to power up an EV to around 80 per cent in less than half an hour and that seems a reasonable compromise between practicality and saving the planet. End quote.


Frankly the thought of driving only 150 kms or so, then waiting for half an hour just to get me to 80% full so I could drive another 120 kms before having to do it all again would make me not a very nice person to be sitting next to.

And when I think of road trips, I generally think of the summer holidays and there isn’t an EV on the market that will take the bikes, kayaks, kids and chillybins to anywhere that I would want to go. I can see it now, “hey you kids just amuse yourself for half an hour then we’ll be on our way”.

Of course there is some good news as a result of all this. There is a new niche market for emergency EV charging vehicles like this one from overseas. The AA are already looking at this so you had better get off quick to the bank with your business plan.

But then you could always just go the whole hog and get one of these aftermarket range extenders, they just mean you can’t tow the jetski at the same time.

Nomadic Power Range Extender

Personally, I think a diesel ute that can do about 1,000kms after a five minute fill up and carry all your road trip accoutrements, is going to be pretty hard to beat for many years to come. Actually strike that, make mine a Falcon wagon – much better.