‘Fuelling up’ EVs using smart chargers can reduce charging costs, take pressure off the national electricity grid, and help reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint through prioritising renewable energy and avoiding fossil fuel electricity generation.
New Zealand is seeing around 1,700 new electric vehicles hit the road every month. With increasing uptake and interest in EVs, the way we power them up plays a critical role in New Zealand’s electricity future, as the Government focusses on increasing electrification of our energy system.
To support this rapid electrification, EECA (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) has commissioned updated guidance, delivered by Standards New Zealand, to help move New Zealanders towards ‘smart’ charging, at home, at work and on the road.
Using a smart EV charger, at home, during off-peak hours is the most convenient, smartest, and most efficient way to ‘fuel up’. A smart EV charger can receive a signal from your electricity supplier and charge your car when the demand for electricity is at its lowest across New Zealand, which is usually when prices will be lower.
Charging at home off-peak is like buying petrol at around 40c/litre, depending on your electricity retailer – and it maximises the use of renewable energy sources like hydro, geothermal, and wind power.
But not all EV chargers are created equal, and they aren’t currently regulated. The new guidance aims to address this by providing best practice information to point New Zealand’s EV charger market in the right direction, helping futureproof our charging practices in a rapidly evolving energy landscape.
Brian Fitzgerald, EECA Technical Lead, says New Zealand is likely to integrate ‘demand flexibility’ into our energy system in the near future, which means that smart chargers and other tech like smart heat pumps will be able to receive signals from electricity suppliers to optimise their electricity supply.
“EECA has found that the electricity industry has been largely in favour of the transition to smart chargers, as the cost savings, network stability and wider economic benefits are so clear cut,” said Fitzgerald.
EECA is currently working with the Electricity Engineers’ Association on a pilot to demonstrate the potential of this two-way communication for EV charging at homes and businesses across NZ which require smart EV chargers.
“The FlexTalk Project will provide us with a playbook for implementing demand flexibility into our energy system, which will mean that consumers have the power to use electricity when it’s cheapest, greenest and most readily available,” said Fitzgerald.
“Reasons to transition to an EV are stacking up - they’re cheaper to run, produce fewer emissions, and you can refuel them conveniently at home. For many models, you can currently secure a rebate on them.”
Last year, New Zealand reached a new high – with 55% percent of people considering an EV for their next vehicle purchase.
“This transition will play a key role in decarbonising the transport sector, which accounts for around half of New Zealand’s energy-related emissions,” said Richard Briggs, EECA Transport Group Manager.
“If left unmanaged, increased electrification will require an even greater investment in network infrastructure.
This information is just one of the ways we are supporting Kiwis to make the best purchases they can when they’re making the switch to EVs, because it will help our whole energy system.”
EECA has previously commissioned two EV charger PAS for residential and commercial use, which are both being updated to encourage the uptake of smart chargers.
The updated residential charger guidance gives advice and technical information on the best smart, efficient, and safe EV chargers that are on the market for use in homes and businesses, as well as a checklist for EV owners to ensure their chargers are installed safely.
Similarly, the commercial charger guidance covers off the types of EV chargers that are designed for use in commercial settings – like private parking facilities, dedicated charging stations, and ‘destination’ chargers that are installed in places like public gyms, swimming pools and community hubs.
Later in 2023, a third PAS on ‘journey’ EV chargers will be released. They are usually located in or near service stations and offer higher kW (typically 75kW+) and faster charging than ‘destination’ chargers.
“Informing the design of EV charging infrastructure with comprehensive technical guidance and information, will help ensure New Zealand builds a resilient EV charger system, that is energy efficient and fit for a low-emissions economy,” said Briggs.
Buying an EV charger depends on your individual circumstances – what kind of EV you have, how fast you want to charge it, how much you want to spend, and your home’s wiring. The top tips for home charging from the updated EV charger PAS are below.
Know the benefits of smart chargers:
- Safety – Install with the guidance of a licensed electrician, who will check your house wiring and ensure it can safely cope with the additional EV charger load.
- Immediate savings – Programme to charge at times when electricity is at its lowest cost.
- Future cost savings – In the future, when a demand flexibility service is introduced in New Zealand, smart EV chargers will be able to react to signals from the grid and reduce the level of charge or turn off when electricity is expensive and ramp up or turn back on when costs reduce.
- Smart home ready – Smart chargers are the first building block of a fully functional smart home, which connects your existing appliances in a network to optimise your household electricity use.
Know who to talk to about your purchase:
- Smart EV charger supplier – Charger suppliers know what type of EV you have and how quickly you want to charge it.
- Charger installer – Installers will check the wiring in your home and advise where the best/safest place to install your smart EV charger is.
- Electricity supply company – Electricity supply companies can tell you if they offer lower cost electricity pricing for off-peak charging, and what EV or charger you need to access it (you might want to check if there are other supplier options that suit you better).
The Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) for EV chargers were commissioned by EECA and delivered and published by Standards NZ. They are both free to download.
This new guidance sits alongside EECA’s wider work to support the expansion of our EV charging network. The Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF) has co-funded over 1300 chargers across the country, to the point where there is now a charger every 75km across almost the entire state highway network. The network will further expand, thanks to $110 million of funding, allocated in budget 2023.
The expansion is set to establish charging ‘hubs’ every 150–200 kilometres on main highways, and public charging at community facilities for all settlements with 2,000 or more people.