Z Energy rolls out automatic car-scanning payment for filling up at the pump

Fuel distributor Z Energy will on Friday roll out hands-free automated pump payments to 40 stations throughout Auckland and the North Island.

The NZX-listed company has been trialling the technology since December last year, and plans to roll-out the technology to the South Island later in the year. 'Fastlane', which is what Z Energy has named the automated payment technology, works through downloading the Z app and entering fuel, registration and payment details.

Once you fill up your tank the security cameras at the station scan the car number plate and the payment is made instantly. Z Energy is confident that automated payments won't impact the sales of food and drink at its sites.

Z Energy innovation manager Pete Robson said the company developed the technology to make filling up at the pump quicker and easier.

"As you drive in our cameras read your number plate and we unlock the fuel pump for you ... fill yourself up and you drive away - you don't need to go inside, you don't need to swipe you're card or do anything - it all happens behind the scenes in an attempt to make the experience easier and better, and speed things up," Robson said.

For the last 12 months Z Energy has had nine stations trialling the payment option, including at Te Atatu Peninsula and Greenlane. The technology allows for loading up multiple number plates to a single card, for example, so parents can pay for their children's fuel or employees can fill up on the company account.

Z Energy, which also operates the Caltex brand, was not able to reveal how much it spent to implement the technology but said it was not much as its stations already use the existing high definition CCTV and number plate recognition software needed for the technology.

Robson said the company would seek feedback on fastlane when it is made widely available. "It's based on customer feedback as to where we go next with it ... do we change it again and do it slightly differently or do we take it to a whole different place." There was risk associated with the payment option but Robson said the company was confident with its capabilities and the results from trials.

Robson said it was hard to know if the automated payment would result in a decline in retail store sales but said it did not expect every customer to opt for fastlane. "We haven't noticed [a decline], then again, we've only had the nine sites so it is small on the scale of how many sites we have," he said.

"Where this whole thing came from for us was around the idea of innovations and about actually standing out for customers. Our industry, we're really known for being all the same, so offering something like fastlane offers customers choice.

"It's not for everyone, in the same sense that if you want to deal with a bank, you can go into the branch, online or call them up - different people have different preferences and we see fastlane as another choice." Robson said it was not Z Energy's intention to turn its stations into self-service points. "We're pretty comfortable that this is about choice - just one of the things we offer, as opposed to replacement.

"When you need to be in and out quickly and you've got somewhere to be - that's where we think fastlane is perfect." Z Energy has 200 stations spread throughout the country.