JUCY electric vehicle

New Zealand needs to develop more infrastructure to make travelling the country in electric vehicles easier, according to a recent research project.

The five-month trial research involved two Parisian tourists travelling more than 13,000km to 45 destinations across New Zealand in a prototype electric campervan.

JUCY co-founder and COO Dan Alpe said that while the tourists managed to travel most of the country, the experiment also revealed shortcomings in the country’s electric vehicle infrastructure.

“One of the key findings of the trial was that in some parts of the South Island there are long distances in between vehicle charging stations which our current battery range can’t easily traverse.

“For example, there are no campgrounds between Blenheim and Kaikoura, let alone any charging facilities and only two fast-charging stations in the entire West Coast.

“This meant the tourists had to stop every 100kms to charge for five hours and, in a number of cases had to knock on the door of a private household to ask to charge their vehicle overnight.

“There was also a significant cost variation in the cost to power the battery each time, with one campground wanting $45 just to charge the vehicle – compared to a $5 to $10 at most fast charging stations around the country.

“International tourists come to New Zealand expecting to find a country which has embraced a sustainable philosophy and it is clear that more work needs to be done for us to meet these expectations,” he said.

JUCY is working alongside academics to produce new electric campervans, and the tourism company has paid attention to the results of the research in their developments.

“The trial data showed us there are some key areas we need to focus on, including reducing the weight of the vehicle and increasing the capacity of the battery to allow us to get 200 km from each charge.

“Our collaboration with industrial design specialists at Massey University will see us completely redesign the interior and exterior of our campervans using new materials which are lighter and more aerodynamic.

“We will also be looking at the integration of solar panels and developing more advanced battery technology to find new ways to get more distance from each charge – without travellers having to compromise on features such as air conditioning to conserve power.

“There is also a significant educational role to be undertaken about electric vehicles – particularly among campgrounds and tourist centres who need to understand the importance of EVs in the future of New Zealand tourism.”