Nelson leading way in EV ownership, but are there enough chargers?

Nelson drivers are leading the charge when it comes to low emission vehicles, with the highest rate of ownership in the country.

But, with sales of EVs booming across the motu (country), a Tasman district driver is warning a lack of charging infrastructure in the top of the south could drive people back to petrol for longer trips.

The Ministry of Transport fleet data shows there were 823 battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Nelson in October – the equivalent of one vehicle for every 66 people.

That compares to one vehicle for every 72 people in Auckland, every 79 people in Canterbury and 86 in Wellington.

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At the other end of the scale, the West Coast had only one low emission vehicle for every 861 people, while Gisborne had one per 469 people, and the Tasman district one for each 309 people.

The figures come as EV sales in New Zealand are soaring: more than 14,000 have been registered this year – nearly double 2021 registrations – bringing the total to 46,000 by November.

Richmond resident David Reddecliffe has owned EVs for about five years, starting with a Nissan Leaf and now driving a Tesla Model 3.

He regularly took the car for long trips, and towed a caravan, and said he wouldn’t go back to petrol.

“I love our car, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.”


Here is every new electric car you can buy in New Zealand as of September 2022.

But the growing number of EVs on the road was becoming a problem at charging stations, particularly as cars with larger ranges made long-distance trips easier, he said.

The limited charging options was particularly evident for people driving to Christchurch, and he often drove via Kaikōura to avoid queueing for the charger at Murchison.

“I don’t have an issue with stopping to charge … but I have got an issue if I have got to wait for two to three cars before me.”

The infrastructure had to keep pace with the growing number of EVs on the road or people would turn back to petrol for long journeys, he said.

“You don’t want people to swap back to petrol to do all their long distance.”

An Alpine Energy Electric Vehicle fast charger at Lake Tekapo.


An Alpine Energy Electric Vehicle fast charger at Lake Tekapo.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority general manager, transport, Richard Briggs said 85% of EV charging was done at home, but there needed to be better options for people on longer journeys.

This summer would be a telling one for the network, given the rate new EVs were arriving in the country.

“We just don’t know how big the problem’s going to be.”

There was little that could be done about the network in the short-term, but the long-term plan was to have “cluster stations” with up to 20 chargers every 150km to 200km along the main highways.

Two pilot stations – one in the North Island and one in the South Island – would be established in 2023, he said.


A new EV hyper charger has been officially unveiled at Orari in South Canterbury. Video first published in June, 2022.

While the infrastructure was being built EV drivers would need to think about the best way to charge their car, rather than relying on fast chargers to leave those free for people who need them.

Being considerate of others would be essential as charge stations got busy over the summer holiday period, he said.

“The key is just take what you need and get on – don’t leave your car, and be considerate of others.”

ChargeNet marketing and communications manager Bailey Gorst said it was exciting to see EV demand growing across the motu, including in regional areas like Nelson.

“Our national vehicle fleet needs to be made up of at least 30% EVs by 2035 if the country wants to meet its first emissions budget … ChargeNet is committed to installing charging points, which will include 50kW, 75kW, 150kW and 300kW rapid and hyper-rapid charging points, as we ramp up the expansion of our nationwide network of EV charging hubs.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport said the success of the Clean Car Discount has meant “there is increased demand for EV charging, and there is a need to build this critical infrastructure further”.

“An EV charging strategy is being developed to provide certainty to all parties on the role government will play in supporting EV charging infrastructure.”

The draft strategy will be published by the end of 2022 for public consultation, which will be jointly led by Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.