A Comprehensive Guide to Public EV Charging

A comprehensive guide to public EV charging

You’ve been plugging in your mobile phone and your laptop for years. It’s probably comforting to know that plugging in your electric vehicle (EV) is not much different. Most people find it easier than refueling with petrol, once they know what to do. And it’s certainly less messy—no worries about spilling fuel, putting petrol into a diesel tank or remembering the difference between premium and super.

Charging your EV does come with a slight learning curve, though. So, to help alleviate any concerns, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to public EV charging to help you through the transition. Soon plugging in to charge will feel as natural as plugging in your electric kettle.

And with that, grab a cup of tea, and let’s dive in…

Public EV Charging Questions

First things first — before you head to a charging station

To use the ChargeNet network, you don’t need to bring cash or cards, but you will need to create an account. It’s best to do this before you need to visit a charging station for the first time.

Creating a ChargeNet account is simple, free, and takes only a few minutes via our website or app. You only pay for what you use, with no nasty surprises.

To create your account, click the ‘Sign Up’ button on the ChargeNet website. You’ll need a credit or debit card, or if you don’t have one, you can even use a valid pre-paid VISA, eg, Prezzy card.

Once you open your account, you can order and register your ChargeNet RFID fob. Simply visit our ordering page and place an order, or click here. We’ll courier your RFID fob to you, which looks like a swipe tag that comes with your gym membership. Attach this to your keyring so it’s always with you.

To access the network before your key fob arrives in the mail, you can start a charging session via our app, or through https://app.charge.net.nz/charge. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to access the charging network and enjoy ‘filling up’ without pulling out your wallet each time.

It’s also a good idea to download the ChargeNet App before you hit the road. The easiest way to stay in charge of your charging sessions is with the ChargeNet app. From the palm of your hand you can find charging stations, view live availability, check pricing, or activate and monitor charging sessions.

How do I find an EV charging stations?

ChargeNet has installed rapid and hyper-rapid charging stations throughout the country. With a network of more than 250 strategically positioned rapid charging stations (and expanding), we give EV drivers a convenient and reliable EV charging network throughout New Zealand. From Cape Reinga to Bluff, we’ve got you covered.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has also been busy putting up the official EV charger sign along the main state highways. While they are fantastic, they are only any use if you drive past one. Fortunately, there are several other methods to find our stations.

Both the ChargeNet app and the ChargeNet website have a map of New Zealand showing all our chargers and which ones are busy or down for maintenance. Zoom in to see the detail, or click on a station for the address. If accessing the map on our website, you can use the filter to customize the map to suit you by removing all the AC chargers from the map or removing the chargers that are planned but not yet up and running. If using the app on the go, it will automatically find the closest ChargeNet station.

Some EVs are equipped with onboard navigation systems that give directions to the closest charger when your battery is getting low. In other EVs, you can programme your favourite charging stations into your nav system.

Both Google and Apple maps have most of our charging stations listed. Be aware that newer stations may not be listed on these apps yet.

Third-party apps like Plugshare and PowerTrip are searchable databases of all available chargers. We recommend you create an account and enter your EV details. That way, you can easily search for the chargers that your EV can use. Be a good Plugshare citizen and log in when you are charging. It helps the following driver know the charger is working and available.

We don’t print directories of our chargers because we are constantly adding more charge points and stations to our network.

What to do when you arrive at the charging station?

The charging process will differ slightly depending on whether you’re visiting an AC or DC charging station.

DC charging stations

If there are two car parks in front of the charging station, park in the available carpark that allows you access to the cable and connector required for your vehicle. You may have to wait in the other spot if the charging station is already in use. Usually, you’ll find two cables at each station, but with our 25kW and 50kW charging stations, only one EV can charge at once.* Before you start, make sure both cables are placed back into their holders on the station. This is because they time-out after 90 seconds of inaction, and replacing them resets the timer.

*300kW hyper-rapid chargers can charge up to three EVs at once.

How do I start charging my EV?

Open your charge port, choose the appropriate connector, and click it into your vehicle’s charge socket securely. Some EVs require you to turn them off before initiating a charge, check your vehicle’s manual for details. But they can all be turned back on once you are charging. You can activate a session in one of the following ways:

Remotely via the app or start charge page:
You can activate a charging session using your smartphone via the ChargeNet app or going to charge.net.nz and clicking on start charge.

By RFID fob: 
You can activate a charging session using the RFID fob linked to your account. Simply swipe or tap the RFID fob on the designated area on the charging station and select start.

Do different EVs have different plugs and connectors?

You’re probably already familiar with different protocols for appliance sockets and household voltages if you’ve travelled to different countries. Electric vehicles are not immune to this inconvenient phenomenon of the modern world. It is caused by not having an international standard available when modern electric vehicles were in their infancy. Only 100% EVs and PHEVs can plug into the ChargeNet network.

Even if the car manufacturers could agree to switch their current charging protocol to one standard, doing so would be cost-prohibitive. It can be done, but it would be a painful process. It’s a bit like a country changing from driving on the left to the right side of the road.

Interesting Fact: In 2017, New Zealand adopted its official charging protocols: CHAdeMO and Combined Charging Standard Two (CCS-2). We’ve also adopted the AC charging protocol “Type 2”. Fortunately, NZ settled on these standards early before our charging network got too big to change economically.

Before using our network, make sure your vehicle accepts the charging protocols available on our network. When searching for a station in the ChargeNet map or app, you can filter the results by choosing only the relevant protocol, or connector.

How long will it take to charge my EV?

At a 50kW ChargeNet DC rapid charger, you can usually expect to add about a 66 km range in 15 minutes. The three main variables* are: what model EV you have, how many kW you want, and which part of your battery you are charging, i.e., the lower half is quicker than the top half. You can learn more about this subject here – How long will it take to charge my EV?

Recently, ChargeNet has installed 300 kW hyper-rapid EV chargers. The massive output of these hyper-rapid chargers can charge some modern EVs to 100km in less than 5 minutes or 400km in up to 15 minutes. Even if your EV cannot take such a high wattage, you can still use them at lower speeds. Your EV will automatically choose the speed that suits it best. Plus, they can each charge three cars at once, so you are less likely to need to wait. We are installing more of these powerful beasts in strategic locations where they will get the most use.

ChargeNet‘s AC charging points offer between 7 -22 kW of power. The actual AC charger is onboard your car, and maximum power inflow is limited to your charger’s ability. For example, some older EVs can only accept 3.3kW. If your EV can accept a 7 kW charge, it should take approx.* 2.5 hours to get 100km or 15 minutes for 10 km, which is usually enough to get you to the closest rapid charger. Another benefit is you can opportunity charge, for free, whilst shopping. And the only restriction on how long you may stay depends on each car park.

*charging speeds are dependent on many factors over which we have no control, such as your car’s BMS settings and the temperature. We can only give you general guidelines.

How much does it cost to charge?

The average charging session will cost between $5 and $15 using a rapid or hyper-rapid charging station. These costs may differ depending on what level charger you are using and the size of your battery. If you have a vehicle with a large, or slow battery it will cost more than average. Prices are set at a charging station level and vary across the network. Please refer to the Charge page at app.charge.net.nz or download the ChargeNet app for a full list of current charging rates.

The speed of charging changes as you charge

“At first, it seems really fast, and then it slows down.” You aren’t imagining it. Your EV has a battery management system (BMS) that controls the rate of charge. Each EV is different, but the BMS is there to protect your EV, so that a rapid charger will never damage it, no matter how hot it gets, nor how full it gets. ChargeNet 50kw DC charging stations default to an 80% charge because that’s all you usually need, and that portion of the battery is reasonably quick to charge. If you need more charge to get to your next destination, push the 80% max button on the charger, and it will switch to a 95% charge.

Can I walk away and leave my EV charging?

Yes. This is the beauty of electric vehicles. But it doesn’t always take as long as you might think to charge. So remember to be back before it is full. It is widely considered very impolite to leave someone waiting when your vehicle has finished charging. The person waiting may be parked somewhere else, so don’t assume there’s no one else there.

A good way to ensure you don’t forget to be back in time is to download the ChargeNet app. It will allow you to keep an eye on the progress.

Another way is to ensure you have managed your SMS preferences in your account. We’ll send you a free SMS text message telling you when your charging session is finished. The text also lets you know how much your charging session cost.

Rapid charging stations are a limited resource, and the parks in front of them are for charging vehicles only. They’re not for electric vehicles to park unless they are waiting to charge. Some of our stations incur idle fees, and if your vehicle is not moved within five minutes of the completion of your charge, an idle fee of $1.00 per minute may be applied.

“What’s to stop someone from unplugging you?”

When an EV starts charging, the cable is locked in place to the vehicle’s charging port, preventing anyone else from unplugging it. If you used your RFID fob, the car can only unlock from the charging station and connector early if the RFID fob is again used to unlock the charging station. Our 50kW chargers display a padlock lit in red when an RFID fob locks the interface.

Once charging is finished, the station will turn off, and communications disconnect. Most vehicles will simply let you remove the connector. Others require you to press a button on your remote or in your car or unlock your doors to disconnect. Please check your EVs manual for instructions.

How do I stop a charging session?

If you need to leave before you’ve finished charging, you can stop at any time. Simply wave your RFID Fob across the reader to unlock your charging session. Then press the Stop button on the display interface. If you started the charge with the ChargeNet app, you can also stop the charge with the app.

After pressing stop, wait a few seconds for the station to disengage from your car. The CHAdeMO connector has a red indicator light on top of it, which will turn off once it’s safe to remove the connector (some stations have a switch on the connector handle). The CCS-2 connector does not so wait a few seconds. Firmly but gently pull the connector out of your EV and be sure to hang the cable back up so it doesn’t get damaged. Close your charge port and port cover carefully as well. These can be fairly fragile on some models.

Please do not press the big red Emergency Stop button unless it is a real emergency. This not only stops your charge, but it also shuts down the whole station causing headaches for our Network Manager. If an Emegency Stop is essential, please reset for the next person before you leave.

Understanding the difference between AC and DC charging

AC (e.g. slow charging at home or using public destination chargers) is alternating current, and DC (also known as rapid or hyper-rapid charging) is direct current. AC charging is slower because the power from the grid uses the vehicle’s small onboard charger to charge the battery. In contrast, a DC charging point has a massive charger inside the station. We’ve written an article about this topic if you’d like to know more – EV charging: the difference between AC and DC.

What happens if I can’t start a charging session on a 50kW rapid charger?

Check out our troubleshooting list, and if that fails, call our friendly 24/7 support centre on 0800 224 274.

Charging can be as straightforward or as complex as you want it to be. There are a lot of fascinating technical things to learn, but we’ll leave that for another blog. You don’t have to know much about the power that boils your kettle to make a cup of tea. In the same vein, you really don’t have to know much more than the above to successfully charge your car.

Have a look over this EV Encyclopedia if you’d like to explore EV charging in more depth.

If you still have more questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page, the Support Area, or reach out to us. We’re always happy to help.