Spark plugs in phone box EV charging stations

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Goat Farm CD Vaughn Davis, who’s been doing creative work for Spark for some time, was tapped to star in a test drive of the company’s phone-box electric car charging stations. That’s him – with comedian/podcaster Tim Batt – in the video (which was shot by Spark in-house).

It was posted on Facebook yesterday, and was viewed overnight by a very respectable 20,000 visitors.

Spark says its piloting of the use of Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers fitted to phone boxes near Auckland is an “Australasian first”. The company has dubbed the exercise ‘Spark Plugs’.

Spark Plugs give electric vehicle drivers the ability to top-up their car batteries at selected phone boxes, extending their car’s range and combating ‘range anxiety’ – the fear that you won’t be able to reach your destination, one of the main obstacles to widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Spark Plugs aims to help make planning long distance trips easier, with more places to plug in and recharge along the way.

“Using our lovely phone boxes as top-up charging stations is an incredibly innovative and modest idea, and yet another way to breathe new life into the humble phone box which has a reputation of being a bit out of date,” Spark Ventures ceo Rod Snodgrass said.

“More than a thousand of them are now wifi hotspots too, which was another Australasian first, so they’re quickly becoming a kind of ‘digital Swiss army knife’.

“More importantly, this piece of Kiwi ingenuity is another part of Spark’s commitment to New Zealand. As the number of electric vehicles rises we imagine the possibility of a network of EV chargers all around the country, connected to thousands of public phone boxes, helping unleash the incredible potential of the electric vehicle community.

“We are proud to be playing a small part in the growing electric vehicle movement in New Zealand – every little bit makes a difference to our future. Electric vehicle drivers justifiably feel good about doing their bit for the environment, and we want to help that feeling last a little longer.”

Five phone boxes near Auckland are part of the Spark Plugs pilot, with three already converted and operational at:

  • Waiwera Road, by the Waiwera Thermal Resort
  • Waitakaruru Country Store car park, Waitakaruru, State Highway 25
  • Prescotts Garages, Kopu-Hikuai Road, Hikuai, State Highway 25A

Two more will be coming online shortly – at Waipu Pharmacy (The Centre, Waipu), and Wellsford – either at the Memorial Park or at another site on SH1, depending on consents.

They will also be listed on Plugshare – a crowdsourcing app that plots charging stations all over the world.

The pilot will run through to the end of April, and if it’s successful, Spark will look at expanding the network, provided the necessary permissions and consents are obtained.

  • There are just over 1000 EVs on the road in New Zealand today, but doubling every year
  • Spark has around 3500 phone boxes across the country
  • Anyone can plug in and charge up, not just Spark customers
  • EV charger units have specialised charging plugs which means they can only be used to charge vehicles
  • 30 minutes of charge will give a top-up of around 20 km, depending on the charging system in the car. Its not yet practical to have fast-chargers in more remote areas as big power supplies are needed – so this is all about helping EV drivers top-up on the go
  • The idea is an Australasian first, but a trial in Europe began after we started developing the idea independently in the Spark Ventures team
  • Spark is starting with Auckland because it has the largest concentration of EV users in New Zealand

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