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 station?

Both the ChargeNet app and the ChargeNet website feature a map of New Zealand showing all our chargers, live availability and maintenance status. You can zoom into a station to view more details and click on a specific station to find the address. On our website, there’s also a customisable filter enabling you to select AC or DC chargers, and to filter out planned chargers that aren’t yet up and running. If you’re using the ChargeNet app, you’ll automatically be shown your nearest ChargeNet charging 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, your can programme your favourite charging stations into your nav system.

Both Google and Apple Maps have most of our charging stations listed, but be aware some of our newer stations may not be listed on these apps yet.

Third-party apps like Plugshare and PowerTrip contain searchable databases of all available chargers. We recommend you create an account and enter the details of your EV, which will enable you to search for compatible chargers. It’s good practice to log into PlugShare when you start charging, as it helps other drivers see the charger is working and available.

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.

AC charging stations

If there are two car

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?

EV charging connectors are classified as Level 1 or Level 2 chargers according to whether they use an alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) and the speed at which they charge. In addition to how quickly you need to charge, selecting which cable to use is dependent on the inlet port on your vehicle and whether you’re at home, at the office or using a public charger. Only 100% EVs and PHEVs can plug into the ChargeNet network.

Type 2 AC
This connector is the slowest method of charging your EV and is mostly used when you have plenty of time to charge, such as at those or work.

CHAdeMO
This DC connector is capable of delivering high power levels for fast charging. CHAdeMO chargers are commonly used by Japanese models, as well as some Japanese imported European vehicles.

Combined Charging Systems (CCS)
Designed as an ‘open industry standard’ connector, vehicle manufacturers worldwide use the CSS connector for fast charging, but they are most often associated with European automakers.

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?

There are three main variables that impact the speed at which your EV will draw power from a charger: what model EV you have, how many kW you want, and whether you’re charging the first half or second half of your battery – the first half is quicker to charge. You can learn more about this subject here: How long will it take to charge my EV?

Recently, ChargeNet has installed 300kW hyper-rapid EV chargers. The massive output of these hyper-rapid chargers can boost the range of some modern EVs by 100km in less than 5 minutes or up to 40km in 15 minutes. Even if your EV has a lower maximum wattage, you’re still able to use these rapid chargers at lower speeds, and they charge three cars at once, so you’re less likely to need to wait. We’re installing more of these impressive chargers in strategic locations where they’ll be most valuable to Kiwi EV drivers on their journeys.

In addition to our DC charging points, we also have AC chargers that can output between 7–22kW of power. The maximum power inflow available is limited to the charging ability of your vehicle. Many AC chargers are free outside supermarkets and shopping centres, enabling you to ‘opportunity charge’ while running errands.

*charging speeds are dependent on many factors that we have no control over, 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

If you’ve noticed your EV charges quickly to begin with and then slows down, you’re not imagining it! Your EV has a battery management system (BMS) that controls the rate of charge in order to protect the battery. The BMS will ensure your battery will never be damaged during a charge, no matter how hot or full it gets. ChargeNet’s 50kW DC charging stations will automatically charge to 80%, because that’s all you’ll usually need, and the last 20% of a battery is always the slowest to charge. If you need more charge for your journey, push the 80% max button on the charger, and it will allow you to charge to 95%.

Can I walk away and leave my EV charging?

Yes, this is the beauty of electric vehicles. Just remember it doesn’t always take as long as you might think, so don’t forget to return before your charge is up. It’s good EV etiquette – as well as just being generally the polite thing to do – to move your vehicle when it’s finished charging, so other drivers in the queue can plug in. Don’t assume no one is waiting because you can’t see them, they may be parked somewhere else waiting for you to finish.

A good way to ensure you don’t forget to return to your charger in time is to download the ChargeNet app, which will allow you to keep and eye on the progress of your charge. Another way is to ensure you have updated your account’s SMS preferences. ChargeNet will send you a free text message letting you know when your charging session is finished, and how much it cost.

Fast charging stations are a limited resource, and the parks in front of them are for actively charging vehicles only. Some of our stations apply idle fees, and if your vehicles 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.