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Kahn Denton, relaxed behind the wheel of the solarZero EV

On the road with Kahn Denton - from Auckland to Taheke Marae in an EV

Kahn Denton, solarZero's Iwi Partnerships Manager, took solarZero's new Nissan Leaf on a road trip from Auckland to Taheke Marae in August 2020. Here's his story.

Earlier this month I made a trip north to Taheke Marae, located just outside of Kaikohe in the Ngāti Pākau, Ngāti Te Rauwawe hapū of the wider iwi Te Māhurehure and Ngā Ngaru o Hokianga of Ngāpuhi region. The trip was part of our ongoing partnership following a solarZero installation on the marae in May 2019 as part of the Marae DIY series on Maori TV. Now it was time to revisit the marae to discuss how the service was working for the community and to continue our dialogue on helping the marae fulfil our shared value of Kaitiakitanga, and make changes for a sustainable and zero-carbon future. 

Along the theme of zero-carbon, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to road-test our company EV - take it out of the city and on the open road. The 2018 Nissan Leaf is a new addition to the company fleet, and I was excited to have the opportunity to have my 648 km return work trip powered by clean electricity. I was eager, to say the least! I knew this trip would be an experience that will become the norm for travel in years to come.

The journey begins

The day came to travel up to the beauty of the winterless north. I had to the best of my ability planned the trip out, but I knew travelling by EV was going to be very different - no petrol station stops for one. 

I needed to plan where I would stop and when I could charge the EV. My journey started from Auckland, and with a partially-charged battery I worked out I could get as far as Warkworth before I needed to charge up (the EV has a capacity of 40kWh, which provides around 250km travel). 

Stopping in Warkworth I found the charging station easily, thanks to the ChargeNet app. After charging for a half-hour the battery reached 80%. As it had started to rain heavily I was keen to get back on the road again. The battery seemed to be draining faster and it took me a second to work out why. Driving along with the AC, wipers and lights on I pulled into Whangarei to charge up again. That's right, the more electronics you use in the EV the faster the stored energy is used. The rain was still pouring down so my plan from here was to get to Kerikeri and charge up to 100% as I noted on the ChargeNet app that the Kaikohe charge station was out of order.

Kahn charges the EV on his road trip north to Taheke marae.

The Nissan Leaf drives beautifully and is so quiet and smooth, which made it one of the most comfortable drives to the Far North I have had in a long while. On a normal road trip, I am used to hearing the motor and knowing when it's going to drop down a gear for that extra power. With the Leaf, there was no waiting. As soon as you put your foot down the power is instantly there with no wait time whatsoever. And I didn’t mind having to stop to charge up either. If you plan your trip well you will be surprised how quickly a half-hour passes.

Arriving at Taheke Marae

Making good time, I pulled up to Taheke Marae where the Hau kainga were waiting to greet us in the pouring rain and bring us onto the marae. With the formalities aside it was with great pleasure that I announced to the whanau of Taheke that solarcity were gifting the solarZero system that was installed during Marae DIY to them. This part of my job I really enjoy. Seeing the faces of the whanau all light up and the outpouring of thanks for the gift given to them really is something special. The feel-good factor this brings knowing this small rural community will benefit from clean green energy and are educated on reducing their carbon footprint, makes all the long hours worked over the Marae DIY series all the more worthwhile.

Taheke Marae at the conclusion of their renovation efforts as part of Marae DIY which included the installation of a solarZero energy service.

You can read more about our involvement with Marae DIY here. 

TOP TIPS FOR EV ROADTRIPS

  1. Plan your journey using the ChargeNet app. I also used google maps to see how many kilometres there were in between charge stations and allowed 50-60 kilometres to be on the safe side. 
  2. Keep an eye on the charge and what you are using electronically in the car. Everything from AC, wipers, headlights and car stereo use energy which depletes the battery faster.
  3. There are still free charging stations dotted around the country. A quick google search and you’ll find them. 
  4. The ChargeNet app is easy to use and to locate the charge station. It will even give you directions to the closest one.