Posted: 28 May 2019

Powering progress: ChargeNet’s drive towards a low carbon future

The world needs to change – as scientists send out stark warnings and companies try to make valid strides to reduce their energy consumption, we’re challenged to assess how our daily lives affect the lifetime of the planet. One of the New Zealand companies trying to make a significant difference is ChargeNet, a network of environmentally-friendly charging stations for electric cars, who took home the Deloitte Energy Excellence Award for a Low Carbon Future last year. Led by CEO and founder, Steve West, they’re hoping to empower Kiwis to switch in their gas-guzzling vehicles for a newer version of transportation.

Driving a path to success

Founded in 2015, the idea for ChargeNet arrived – as all good ideas do – on an adventure. Steve West, founder of a successful music production software company Serato, was the first to import the Tesla Model S to New Zealand’s shores.

Keen to discover how the electric car would fare in a country as yet unused to these kind of vehicles, he organised a grand road trip across the entire length of New Zealand. Though exciting, the adventure proved to be a challenge – as Steve said, he ‘called in lots of favours to plug into people’s outlets’, but couldn’t find enough public outlets that were available 24/7. That’s where the idea of ChargeNet was born, with Steve proving that ‘a really great reason to make a product is when you discover something that you need – because other people likely need it too.’

A new approach to fuel

Now, 140 charging stations later, ChargeNet has expanded significantly and is providing electric car drivers with peace of mind all over the country. They’re opening new stations almost every week, a challenge not just in scale but in speed. Steve pointed out that, ‘as more people transition to electric vehicles, we need more and more charging stations, and we need faster and faster charging stations.

‘With the generation of vehicles today now charging up to six times faster, we need to supply new charging stations that can support that power level.’

However, as a company that supplies power in an energy-conscious world, ChargetNet have also been very specific in how they acquire that power. Working with retailer Ecotricity, their supply comes from a zero carbon generator, so none of their electricity is adding to their carbon footprint.

This careful approach was a big factor in their Energy Excellence Awards win, along with their conscientiously managed operations. Steve is proud of the progress his company has made in such a short space of time, and has seen benefits from the award win, stating ‘we’ve gained recognition from people who aren't in the electric vehicle industry – an industry that can be niche. It's been really great to be recognised and endorsed by an awards body that’s independent.’

Together in electric dreams

As an electric car enthusiast himself, Steve has enjoyed the unique features of electric vehicles. The appeal is varied – Steve describes that ‘for some people it’s very important to reduce their carbon footprint, for others it’s just that they are immense fun, or that they enjoy the quietness of driving them.’

Of course, there are some barriers to adoption and as a result, the country has still got some steps to take before we can phase out traditional fossil fuel use. Steve points out that one of the biggest things that put people off is the price, but that with the development of technology, the cars are becoming a little more affordable every year. For others it’s the fear of being stranded without power, and for ChargeNet, they’re working hard to address that worry with their nationwide network of charging stations.

In Steve’s view, these fears won’t last. With charging stations becoming more common and electric vehicles evolving to become more affordable, he sees transitioning to electric vehicles as a no-brainer. He’s optimistic for the future and sees an electric transportation network as inevitable, stating –

‘It's just a matter of time really until electric cars are the main vehicles on the road. When it happens, it'll seem like it happened overnight but for now, it’s a very gradual process of building momentum.’

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David Morgan

David Morgan

Partner - Corporate Finance

My work spans a variety of industries, with a special focus on clients in the energy and financial services sectors. I enjoy helping people understand the value of their business and ways to improve it in a dynamic environment characterised by the ever-increasing challenges of changing technology, regulation and competition. Deloitte has a vast network of skills and expertise, which I am able to leverage in order to connect clients with the knowledge and people they need to achieve the outcomes they desire.