Free electric vehicle charging stations may soon appear in Australian shopping centres following their unveiling at a centre on New Zealand’s North Island this month.
AMP Capital introduced two chargers for electric vehicles and two mobility scooter charging points at its Bayfair Shopping Centre in Tauranga.
AMP Capital Shopping Centres managing director Bryan Hynes said the company looked at trends across its global business and the shift to electric cars was identified very early.
“Jointly [with Powerco an investor in the project] we looked at what that trend would be and wanted to be the leaders in that space. It shows the way of the future that electric cars can actually be charged within our shopping centres and we are changing to make sure that we cater for those future trends,” he said.
“I think electric cars will become mainstream within a few years and you will start to see the recharging of those and how we cater for that particular segment of the market increase significantly.”
Mr Hynes said AMP Capital will investigate demand for electric vehicle charging stations at other centres in Australia and New Zealand during 2016.
“We are actually looking at it right across our portfolio,” he said. “While we have a look at Bayfair as an example, we have 29 shopping centres where we look at these sorts of things – whether it’s greywater or it’s solar power or how we segregate waste – so we are examining how we can do that across our entire Australian and New Zealand portfolio.”
Bayfair in the Bay of Plenty region is well regarded for its sustainable initiatives in lighting, waste segregation and greywater recycling, as well as its animal-friendly concept of dog parking. Mr Hynes said it was probably one of the most progressive shopping centres in New Zealand from a sustainability point of view.
In 2014 the majority of lighting throughout the centre was retrofitted, resulting in a saving of 656 million kilowatt-hours, which equates to $125,000 in savings a year.
Bins were removed from the food court and the cleaners took on the responsibility of sorting waste. This resulted in a lower cost for waste disposal now than in 2003, despite an expansion of 8000 square metres.
“We were the first centre in New Zealand to do it and we actually divert about 70 per cent of the centre’s waste from landfill,” Mr Hynes said. “So it shows you how doing those sorts of things can actually make a massive impact.”
Greywater is captured and reused throughout the facility for watering gardens or flushing toilets, saving 850,000 litres of water a year.
In a quirky twist, the centre’s place making strategy saw the creation of dog parking stations – secure areas with shade and water where shoppers can leave their dogs rather than having them locked up in cars or tied to a pole.
“They can then go and shop while their pooches are in comfort,” Mr Hynes said.
The vehicle charging station have received positive feedback from consumers and, while it’s early days, Mr Hynes believes demand will accelerate. The centre has also launched a user-pays fast charger for people who want to charge their vehicle in the time it takes to buy and drink a cup of coffee. The regular chargers take approximately six hours to fully charge a standard electric vehicle.
The free charging is small in scale but even when a tipping point is reached with electric vehicle ownership, and consumers are required to pay for charging, Mr Hynes said shopping centre charging would still be an economical alternative to charging cars at home.
“We would actually buy the power a lot more economically than what an individual or single household would and we would pass those savings onto the consumer as well,” Mr Hynes said.
“While we are not doing it for a commercial reason now – we’re doing it for a community benefit – who says that in five or 10 years that hasn’t shifted significantly? And if we can aggregate and pass those savings onto either our retailers or our customers, we would love to do that in the future.”
Mr Hynes said consumption in AMP Capital’s shopping centre portfolio was quite significant and the company was constantly looking at ways to improve its buildings and their efficiency.
“We are always investing in ways we can do that and looking at new technologies that will help us.
“If we implement [electric vehicle charging stations in Australia], I’m sure competing shopping centres will follow suit… and it actually creates public awareness.”
The charging station initiative received funding support from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Environmental Enhancement Fund. Charge Net NZ and Powerco funded the fast charger installation. AMP Capital owns 42 per cent of Powerco through its Infrastructure Equity business.