Jun 13, 2024
Electric Avenue: June 14

Electrification is our jam at Rewiring Aotearoa. And Electric Avenue is where we spread it. This week, reducing costs and connecting the community through solar panels and batteries at marae, the electrification excitement brewing in the rural sector, why solar roofs might take over from solar panels, how your first EV could be the last car you ever need, and how the best new car could be an old car.

Shining lights

Image via Stuff / Warwick Smith

As our Electric Homes and Electric Farms reports have clearly shown, rooftop solar and batteries can bring costs down for households, farms and communities while also reducing emissions. And the Kia Whitingia project is an amazing example of that. 

Five marae in Manawatū have taken a leaf out of Maui’s book and captured the sun with solar panels and two other marae are set to follow suit. Te Tikanga marae is also home to New Zealand’s first community-owned battery, which is made from reused Leaf car batteries (similar to the EV charging project we showcased last week from Counties Energy)

As Stuff reported, this set-up means the marae can provide power to more than 15 homes in the community.

“Kia Whitingia’s data showed it had lowered connected households’ power bills by about 20% and had allowed energy trading at prices below market rates.” 

Additional income from the energy trading platform, developed by Our Energy, flows into a community fund and the whole project is helping to strengthen community connections. 

“The fusion of technology and tikanga exemplifies the Manaaki economy.” And that's exactly what Rewiring Aotearoa believes an electrified future can be.

Rural roundup

Fieldays is always a great opportunity to launch new products aimed at the rural sector, and there was plenty of excitement about some of the new electric kit on offer.

There haven’t been a lot of options for farmers when it comes to electric utility vehicles, but BYD announced its new plug-in hybrid ute, the Shark 6, and Boson Motors USA announced its all-electric off-road light utility vehicle the LX40.

Things are moving fast in this sector and when the kids sitting on Forest Lodge Orchard's electric Monarch tractor are old enough to run their own farms, diesel options might not even be available. Electric machines are so much cheaper to run, have much lower emissions and can be filled up with energy generated from farmers' sheds. Get in behind! 

Driven to distraction

Sticking with driving, there’s always plenty of innovation to report in the passenger EV space. 

In New Zealand, the growth rate for EV sales may have dipped after the Government incentives came off, but as climate writer Robinson Meyer says, it should be seen as more of a slowdown in the long-term growth rate, rather a drop in demand. As he said in this great podcast with Derek Thompson: “Internal combustion engine cars, classic gasoline-powered cars, their sales peaked seven years ago. They’re done. We’re just fighting about how fast EVs are taking over.” 

Global forecasts show EVs could be the same price as internal combustion engine cars by 2026 and maybe our roads could be chargers. In Indiana, a pilot project has just kicked off where they’re building an electrified highway. 

And maybe “the first EV you buy could be the last car you ever need to purchase.” 

“There are certain technologies that are coming down the pipeline that will get us toward that million-mile EV,” Scott Moura, a civil and environmental engineer at UC Berkeley, told The Atlantic. That many miles would cover the average American driver for 74 years

Onwards and upwards

Adding solar panels to your existing roof is generally a good option if you want to reduce your energy costs and research from Australia, which is way ahead on the solar journey, suggests that only around 5% of homes are unsuitable. Improved efficiency means panels can also go on roofs that don't face north or are slightly shaded. But if you’re building, why not cut out the middleman and get a roof made of solar panels? Grand Designs showcased an example of the UK’s first passive house premium and its amazing solar roof. 

And smart energy company Goodwe is also exploring the potential of solar roofs, as this agrivoltaic solution shows.

But why stop at your roof? If you're in the market for a fence, solar panels are becoming an increasingly viable option because they're now so damn cheap.

What's old is new again

Rewiring Aotearoa CEO Mike Casey is currently on a mission to electrify an old Toyota Hilux. And Volkswagen NZ provided an open-source toolkit for anyone that wants to electrify their Kombi van. 

It’s called the Greenprint and, based on the success of this project, it's looking at offering solutions for owners of Beetles and Golf.

As the case study says: “Sometimes the best new car for the planet is an old one.” 

If you've got electrification news you think deserves some attention, let us know on social or via email.

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