Charging 101 | A First-Timer's Guide To Charging Your Electric Vehicle.

News flash; charging an Electric Vehicle isn't as complicated as you might think. Whether you're new to EVs or just thinking about jumping in, it's high time we broke down everything you need to know about charging an Electric Vehicle.

Who better to talk to than the experts over at Hikotron. This Waikato-based start-up is on track to transform the charging network in New Zealand with its high-tech AC public chargers. We caught up with Stephanie and Larry (Co-Founders alongside Ron) to dive deep into the details of EV charging.

Hey Stephanie and Larry, can you tell us a bit about Hikotron?

Stephanie: We are preparing for New Zealand's electric future. We've designed and built an electric vehicle charger, and we're working to create a network of destination chargers throughout New Zealand. These are smart chargers, so they do plenty of clever things like load management, over-the-air updates and real-time charging feedback. We also act as the Charge Point Operator, ensuring the reliability and maintenance of our network.

Larry: We're actually trying to implement what works already in Europe. When Stephanie and Ron (Hikotron's directors) and I moved back to New Zealand in 2020, we found a lack of infrastructure in the AC destination charging space. That's the dominant form of charging in Europe, so we saw our opportunity there.

What's your view on electrifying New Zealand's future?

Stephanie: New Zealand has this fantastic opportunity to electrify transport. Kiwis love their cars—the transportation sector is currently the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions. Electrifying vehicles would help reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality, and offer a cheaper cost of lifetime car ownership. Let's get into the nitty-gritty of charging.

Where can you charge an EV?

Stephanie: Charging should happen at home if possible, and we encourage that. It's estimated that 80% of charging will happen at home, so 20% will happen away from home on public or work chargers. You want to charge while you're getting on with your life... so it should always be a secondary activity. It happens while you're shopping, sleeping, at work or at a friend's house.

Larry: We're focusing on providing alternatives to people that can't charge at home because they rent, don't have a charger or don't have off-street parking. It could also be expensive to install a charger at your house, so it would make more sense to have a charger on the street that you can use rather than in your home.

So, how long does it reallllyy take to charge an EV?

Larry: Modern rapid or hyper DC chargers today often have the ability to fully charge your car from empty in an hour, sometimes less. Typically AC chargers are slower and need two or more hours to give you a decent boost in battery level. This is really where there is a change in mentality needed when it comes to charging. It's not about how long it takes but rather other variables; how long will you be parked there, will it be enough to get you back home and so on. For us the question is more about whether the type of charging fits the use case, rather than purely about speed.

What are the costs associated with charging an EV in New Zealand?

Larry: You'll get the best rate at home because you're paying the same rates as your regular electricity costs. But then we have to consider the cost of installing home chargers, which tends to pay off after about five to seven years of use. On the other hand, a public charger typically has a margin added on top—but keep in mind AC chargers tend to cost slightly less than rapid chargers.

What's the difference between AC and DC charging?

Larry: All of your energy in your car is stored as DC. Essentially, the grid supplies AC energy—so at some stage, there's going to be a conversion between AC and DC. If you want to charge faster, the electricity must be supplied directly as DC, meaning the conversion happens outside your car. A DC charger typically has more electronics—it's more expensive, but it can deliver a much faster charge. When it comes to speed, we would say that AC is probably slow to medium. The slowest AC chargers will be about 2kW; up to about 22kW would be the fastest. Then the fast or rapid chargers would start at 25 kW, all the way up to 300 kW for DC charging.

What are a few things people should be aware of when it comes to charging etiquette?

Stephanie: The most common one we see in New Zealand is removing someone else's cable. You shouldn't touch another vehicle or charging cable—if something goes wrong, it is a grey area on who would be liable. My other one is that all electric vehicles are equal—if we see another vehicle charging, you should respect that and not make your own assessment whether or not you think you have priority over the charger.

What's one misconception you frequently hear about charging an EV?

Stephanie: That it's inconvenient! With a bit of planning, EVs are actually more convenient. My example is if you're travelling to the ski fields; if I could charge while I was up the mountain, I wouldn't have to stop during the long journey, whereas with a petrol engine, I would. So actually, that whole journey is shorter in an EV.

Larry: That all charging needs to be as fast as possible. This comes from the idea that an EV needs to be like a typical petrol or diesel car and that I need to be able to “fill it up” as quickly as possible when it is empty. The reality is that as long as I can easily plug it in and charge it overnight or during the day when it is not in use, then it is much more convenient than having to sit and wait at a fast charger while on the way to somewhere. hire: Tākaro Trails.

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