Network Waitaki chief executive Geoff Douch. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Over the past four years, use of Network Waitaki’s electric vehicle fast-charging stations has more than quadrupled.

After offering free use of the stations since 2017, the trust-owned lines company started charging users of its four 50kW fast-chargers in the Waitaki district from April 1.

Network Waitaki chief executive Geoff Douch said the company’s challenge was to meet the demand of increasingly high usage, expand its fast-charger network, and ease congestion at existing stations.

The company’s four chargers – in Oamaru, Hampden, Kurow and Omarama – were installed in 2017 to encourage more EV use in Waitaki, to ensure there was coverage across the district, and to link up with other chargers in Canterbury and Otago, Mr Douch said.

In the first 12 months, they were used 1200 times.

The most recent full year of data revealed more than 5100 individual charging sessions.

“It’s getting to the point now where we’re having to charge for them,” he said.

“We can’t keep providing it as a free service.”

Network Waitaki has partnered with ChargeNet, joining an existing network of more than 200 fast chargers throughout New Zealand. ChargeNet, the largest rapid-charging network in New Zealand, now manages billing on Network Waitaki’s behalf.

It was a system most EV owners would be familiar with, and it also put Network Waitaki’s charge stations on a national map, which showed availability in real time, Mr Douch said.

Because the charging stations had been free, it was not known where the users were from.

“Particularly the one in Oamaru, I think a lot of locals go down and charge for free, rather than charging at home, but there’s also people that come from out of town, or passing through, visiting Oamaru for the day – it’s hard to know.”

The new 25c per kWh and 25c per minute fee was aligned with other fast-chargers around New Zealand.

According to Ministry of Transport data, Otago had the second highest uptake of EVs per capita in New Zealand, behind Wellington, and Network Waitaki had plans for installing a fifth charger in the Oamaru Harbour area this year, Mr Douch said.

“We’re looking at rolling out more over time,” he said.

“We’re going to see more EVs on the road and as a result of that we’re going to put more infrastructure out there to help people be able to charge them and travel around.”

The company also welcomed feedback on new charging station locations.

“If people are saying we’d really like one in this location’, we can try to figure out how to get one in there.”

Access to car parks and other spaces for the infrastructure was a challenge, but Network Waitaki was working constructively with the Waitaki District Council, Mr Douch said.