I got off the Waiheke ferry, and there she was. Waiting and waving, standing in her usual spot. Jack! She said. I gave my aunty a big hug and we walked off jetty to the same spot she always parks when I come to visit for the weekend.
‘Have you heard about the car drama?’ she asked.
‘Oh no.. ‘ I said. ‘What happened?’
‘The window fell out.’
‘The back window. I was just driving along one day and it fell out into the boot.’
‘Oh my god what did you do?’
‘Oh I just drove it to the wreckers.. It had a good life.’
You will know if you’ve spent a bit of time with us on Saturday mornings, crappy cars are a common theme in my family. But of all the beaten up, fifth-hand, how-the-hell-did-THAT-get-a-warrant vehicles that have at some point been owned by someone in my whānau, my Aunt’s Waiheke island paddock bashers usually took the crummy cake.
‘You wait!’ she said as we reached the end of the jetty.
‘You won’t believe how flash my new car is’
And there it was. Sleek and modern. And very much unlike anything I’d ever seen my aunty drive ever before. In her same park in the Waiheke ferry drop off zone, with a remote locking feature and leather seats and a back window that didn’t for a moment appear like it might fall out on the way home. A brand new Nissan Leaf.
Well, technically it wasn’t brand new. It was just like any other import. It was second or third hand. A first generation Nissan Leaf imported from overseas my aunty had picked up for $10,000. The first person in our family to own a fully electric vehicle.
Honestly, it could hardly have been easier. My aunty let me drive, and it handled more or less exactly the same as my Toyota Corolla hatchback, except there wasn’t the lag time when you put your foot on the gas.
I’d be lying if I said it was quite as fancy or chic as a brand new Tesla, but the amazing thing for me was just how ordinary it felt. It just felt like driving any other hatchback, except that it was really quiet. We got home and plugged it in, like a big purple vacuum cleaner. Easy as that.
Waiheke Island might be the perfect place for electric vehicles. It’s small. It’s contained. Petrol’s expensive. There are plenty of environmentally-minded people, and the vast majority of journeys are well under a hundred Ks.
But actually Waiheke is in some ways a mini New Zealand. How many of us are consistently driving more than 100kms in our day to day errands? I’m not talking about delivery people driving professionally or heavy vehicles or anything like that. I just mean our domestic every day run-around-town vehicles? Be honest. Most of us aren’t travelling that far.
I checked out the new versions of the Nissan Leaf, keeping in mind these cars are at low end of the electric vehicle markets. A new Nissan Leaf Plus has a battery which will comfortably travel 300 kilometres.
All of this is to say that in 16 years time, we can reasonably expect Electric vehicle technology and price to be much better than today. So what if by 2035 we ban petrol vehicles from our domestic market? Or require people to have a special license or pay a special tax to drive combustion vehicles in their day-to-day errands.
Flash as my aunty’s new car might be compared to her last vehicle, transitioning to an electric vehicle really isn’t such a big deal.