Monday, 13 February 2017 19:27

Spark reviving phone boxes as charge points for electric vehicles

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New Zealand telco Spark is extending its Spark Plugs electric car initiative with a new partnership with the Kāpiti Coast District Council in the country’s North Island involving the installation of vehicle chargers to Spark phone boxes around the district.

Five Spark Plugs are planned to begin with and will be installed over the next few months and available to anyone to use free for the first 12 months.

The new chargers will be similar to those rolled out north and south of Auckland earlier last year during the pilot phase of the electric vehicle (EV) project, which Spark claims as an Australasian first.

Ed Hyde, Spark Ventures chief executive, says the lower power chargers will provide a “top up” of energy enabling EVs to run 20-40 kilometres from a 60-minute charge (depending on the car), and the boost will help give EV drivers the confidence to go further and combat “range anxiety’” – the fear you won’t be able to reach or return from your destination, one of the obstacles to widespread adoption of EVs.

Hyde says the initial pilot has been an “overwhelming success”, with the chargers near Auckland being used every day and that Spark is “extremely pleased to be partnering with the Kāpiti Coast District Council to take the initiative further, delivering a useful service to even more New Zealanders”.

“Electric vehicles are the future of transport – they’re important to building a low-carbon society and they’re increasingly affordable, but what we don’t have yet is the widespread charging infrastructure to support and reassure EV drivers. Spark Plugs is an innovative attempt at helping to solve this problem. By repurposing what many consider to be a bit of antiquated technology, we can help drive EV adoption forward and do our bit for New Zealand.

“For decades, the phone box delivered value to New Zealanders every day – they were virtually everywhere you might need one be it a shopping mall, a street corner or the last petrol station for miles.

“As the Spark Plug network grows and chargers are installed in more and more of our phone boxes, this usefulness will come back in a new and exciting way. The Kāpiti Coast District Council’s support is critical for this first expansion, allowing us to deliver Spark Plugs to areas that are more accessible and useful for people.”

Kāpiti Council’s group manager strategy and planning, Sarah Stevenson, says the council, which recently acquired an all-electric Nissan Leaf for its fleet, is pleased to support the development of public charging infrastructure to help more people make the transition to EVs.

“This initiative will help reduce carbon emissions, make it easier for EV owners (both residents and visitors) to get around the Kāpiti Coast and encourage those who don’t own an EV to consider purchasing one in future.”

The planned locations for the EV chargers are Waikanae Park and Ride (in association with Greater Wellington Regional Council), Waikanae Beach, Paraparaumu Beach, Raumati Beach and Paekākāriki.

Spark says the locations will be listed on plugsshare.com – a crowdsourcing app that plots charging stations all over the world.

The telco says the first installation is likely to be at the Spark phone box on Tutere Street, Waikanae Beach within a few months.

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