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New Zealand: Electric car drives Bay in new way

John Mirams (left) with daughter Kate, 10, of Havelock North, is the proud owner of the first electric car sold in Hawke’s Bay, a Nissan Leaf. Photo / Warren Buckland

Hawke’s Bay power firm Unison Networks has bought one of only a handful of electric vehicles to test and research its long-term affects on the company’s electricity distribution network.

Unison owns and manages the electricity networks in Hawke’s Bay, Rotorua and Taupo and recently completed testing using the latest generation of Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid.

The company recently bought a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle which was sourced by Hawke’s Bay Nissan.

Unison Group chief executive officer Ken Sutherland said testing the family-size electric car would help the company understand the peak loading and power quality needs of the vehicle.

The research would also help show how its power demands would interact with other technologies such as distributed generation (solar panels) and energy storage, such as large-capacity batteries.

Unison will also be investigating how power could be stored in the car’s battery when connected to the network, which could in turn be used to support the supply of peak loads in the home and on the network. Research will also look how customers could generate electricity at home and use it to charge their vehicles or to feed excess power back into the house and network during peak load times.

Mr Sutherland said Unison was keen to understand the likely uptake rates of the car in New Zealand which would also help the company prepare a time line for when electric cars are likely to use its network.

“The move to electric vehicles will require the establishment of both a private and public charging infrastructure,” Mr Sutherland said.

“We are currently working with the Hastings District Council to develop the first public charging station, which will be installed in Hastings.


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