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Leading the charge – EVs on campus

14 April 2016

Off gas: One of seven electric vehicles on display at the University of Waikato. This Tesla can cover 400kms on a single charge.

Off gas: One of seven electric vehicles on display at the University of Waikato. This Tesla can cover 400kms on a single charge.

A fleet of electric vehicles was parked-up on campus this week, providing an opportunity for public to view and then learn about the different vehicles’ capabilities.

The cars are on a road-trip called “Leading the Charge”, organised by the Better NZ Trust. The University of Waikato link is with CEREL - The Centre for Environmental, Resources and Energy Law, where Law Professor Barry Barton has been carrying out research on the law and policy issues concerning the promotion of EVs. His work is part of the Energy Cultures 2 project and, in conjunction with the University of Otago, has involved working with the country’s transport and business sectors to support a faster and more effective uptake of energy efficiency, including the uptake of new energy efficient transport technologies and practices. The project is worth $3,199,694 over five years.

The seven EVs on the road-trip give a variety of ‘distance’ options, and include four Teslas, which can cover up to 400kms without needing a charge, a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid), a BMW and a Nissan Leaf.

Professor Barton says there are still a lot of misconceptions about EVs, and so taking the vehicles on the road was a good way to educate people about EV options.  “Research in different countries tells us that public acceptance is important to ‘mainstreaming’ EVs, along with other policy action. Fortunately many New Zealanders recognise that EVs are a good opportunity to switch to a mainly renewable fuel and to escape the vagaries of oil prices.”

Representatives from Charge.Net were also on campus. The business is building a nationwide network of fast DC chargers that let any EV owner quickly fill their “tank”, typically in 10-25 minutes.

Electric vehicles have a charger built in that converts the AC power from the grid into DC power for the car’s battery. Due to size and weight constraints this on-board charger is limited in power and so typically takes 6 hours to fully charge a car.

A fast DC charging station converts high power 3-phase AC into very powerful DC current. This dramatically reduces the charge time, usually to less than 25 minutes.

Professor Barton says it was great to be part of the enthusiasm, commitment, and technical skill of Leading the Charge, and to mesh it in with the work being done on campus.

In conjunction with the road show, the University hosted a workshop at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts where speakers outlined the possibilities of an EV future in transportation, and University researchers spoke of their work.

Professor Barton explained what to look for in pending government policy announcements on EVs; Professor Mark Apperley from Computer Science discussed his studies on vehicle-to-grid electricity storage possibilities; and Dr Mike Duke from Engineering told the story of the EVs that his engineering students have built to develop their skills, and the work he has under way for EVs for use in horticulture.


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