Tuesday 25th August

The Second Coming of the Electric Vehicle

Sitting in the front of the minimalist, modern showroom with white walls and a carefully dissected and still functioning Nissan Leaf is a wooden and metal contraption that looks as if it came straight off a steampunk set. It’s a Lems electric car, manufactured in England in 1903, and it’s the oldest electric vehicle in New Zealand.

“Electric vehicles have been around since 1870,” said EV City founder and owner David Boot. “They’re not new; they’re just having a second coming.”

Having had 18 years of experience in the car business, and managed two dealerships, David set up EV City in 2018 with the vision of making it easier for people to have access to electric cars.

“In the previous dealership I worked in, we started getting the odd EV – just two or three. The staff were really afraid and reluctant to sell them. They didn’t know anything about them. Whenever there’s new technology, there’s a lot of fear about what they are.”

“Before we started EV City, there was a community group on Facebook called the Christchurch EV Group, and it was started by local electric vehicle enthusiasts who imported the vehicles themselves. There was a guy in Rangiora who would import one directly from the UK if you wanted it, at great cost to the customers.”

He became quite interested in electric vehicles because the early adopters of EVs were very knowledgeable about the vehicles. “They were lecturers and scientists. They were very conscious of their environmental footprint. An awful lot of them were musicians.”

Since founding EV City, David and his team have been educating people about electric vehicles and dispelling myths about them. “There’s an awful lot of misinformation about EVs. A lot of people come in with reasons why they don’t want to buy one, but they obviously are interested or else they wouldn’t be here.”

The dissected Nissan Leaf, called X-Ray, has come in very handy. “We cut a perfectly good car in half and now it’s worthless and priceless,” he said. “We can show people where the batteries are, how the cars are built, and how they work. We’ve had all the fire brigades in Christchurch and Canterbury come in to see what they should do if they should ever come across a damaged electric vehicle, things like where they should cut and how to extract people from them.”

People are often surprised that charging an EV is like plugging in a cellphone, and it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance because there are only 20 moving parts, when compared with an internal combustion engine, which has more than 2000. “It’s the easiest car to run if you’re not a car person, and you don’t like maintaining them or fixing them,” he explained.

Not only were they efficient and easy to run, but they were also silent and, for David, who has been attending Christchurch Symphony Orchestra concerts for many years since a young age and had once played the violin, this was a huge draw. “A lot of our customers listen to [RNZ] Concert. They love sitting at the lights just listening to something they would listen to in a completely silent concert hall,” he said.

His go to soundtrack for a roadtrip would be movie scores by John Williams and John Barrie. “Any roadtrip I take would be with my kids, and we play Musical Trivia in the car. I play them nine or ten songs and then ask which John it was.”

EV City has been a Principal Partner of the CSO since 2018. “The community has been very supportive of our efforts,” said David, “and this partnership is about paying it forward.”