Charging into our electric future

By David Thomson on Sat, 26 Aug 2017

Last week the Kia Niro hybrid featured on the cover of Drivesouth. This week it's the turn of a fully electric vehicle - the Hyundai Ioniq - to take centre stage.

The timing of this focus on cars that are powered either wholly or in part by electricity could not have been much better given recent developments around the world.

Last month, I devoted much of an editorial to Volvo's announcement that every new model it launches from 2019 will either be a petrol- electric hybrid or a pure electric machine.

Since then, there have been several more electric car developments on the international stage, including Britain's plans to ban the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars from 2040. This month there have been two significant electric car announcements much closer to home.

The first was a Government pledge to have a third of its fleet (more than 15,000 cars) electric by 2021. This, in turn, is linked to a target of having 64,000 electric vehicles operating in New Zealand by the same year. At present, there are about 4000 such vehicles registered in this country.

The second, which is even more relevant locally, are some of the investments that have been approved in the latest Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund round.

These include funding to support the installation of fast-charge units in Cromwell, Roxburgh, Lawrence, Waihola, Garston, Lumsden and Winton (bizarrely spelt as Winston on the ECCA website!).

Before these EECA-backed units are in place, new fast chargers will be up and running in Fairlie, Geraldine and Twizel, adding to an existing lower South Island network that already includes Dunedin, Hampden, Oamaru, Waimate, Timaru, Balclutha, Alexandra and Invercargill.

These new fast-charge units will make long- distance, all-electric motoring a much more convenient and realistic proposition, especially for owners of older electric vehicles that do not possess the range of the latest crop of such machines. With this in mind, for today's story on the Hyundai Ioniq, we turned to Otago Daily Times features editor Tom McKinlay for a fresh perspective.

Tom would be the last person to claim any specialist road testing expertise but, as the owner and driver of a first-generation all-electric Nissan Leaf, he is ideally placed to provide a relevant view on the new Ioniq. Changing tack completely, I was delighted to see southern rallying stalwarts Norman Oakley and Roger Laird honoured with Motorsport New Zealand heritage awards at last weekend's 50th anniversary bash for Kiwi rallying.

We have a separate news story on this alongside today's editorial, but I would still like to extend my personal congratulations to Norman and Roger for their thoroughly deserved awards.

David Thomson