Finding a cleaner way

Some of New Zealand’s largest companies are gently moving themselves into the electric vehicle market and there are some innovative projects underway. 

If you wondered how soon electric cars were coming your way, it seems momentum is building amongst New Zealand corporates as prices decline and more businesses look to green their fleet and take the lead in being a sustainable corporate citizen. 

This is borne out through a read of the recipients of the latest round of the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), which includes some of New Zealand’s biggest companies. The fund is one of a range of initiatives in the Government’s Electric Vehicles Programme, which aims to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles and it offers up to 50 percent funding of selected projects.

Amongst the recipients on the EECA website are Tranzit Group which proposes to invest in permanent “drive through” opportunity fast charge stations for buses at the Wellington Railway Station bus interchange. Tranzit, supported by Greater Wellington Regional Council, has introduced 10 battery electric buses to central Wellington routes with a further 22 electric buses expected over the next three years. 

 In turn, Tourism Holdings will convert an electric van into a campervan, invest in charging equipment working with holiday parks, and develop dedicated travel itineraries with charging stations at 100km intervals. It aims to have 20 electric campervans on the road within one year. 

Foodstuffs in both the North Island and South Island (the two cooperatives that supply the Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square supermarkets) aims to plug the gaps’ in fast charging infrastructure and will have fast chargers installed at 29 supermarket locations around the country.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare will install 74 EV slow chargers and two medium speed DC chargers to encourage staff to purchase EVs. ECCA’s website says that overseas evidence shows that employees who can charge at work are significantly more likely to buy an EV. “The proposed large scale installation of charging units will show other New Zealand companies what initiatives are possible to encourage EV uptake.” 

The next round of funding is due to open in mid-August.

In Christchurch the country’s first fully battery powered electric car sharing service was launched in February.

Christchurch City Council initiated the car sharing service, the first of its kind
in New Zealand, which is being run for them by Yoogo Share.

Local business and government agencies are on board and the public can also access the battery electric vehicles in the service’s fleet.

The first stage of the car sharing service used Hyundai Ioniq and BMWi3 vehicles and there are now 100 battery electric vehicles at eight hubs across the city. 

At the launch in February Prime Minister  Jacinda Ardern said that encouraging the use of electric vehicles was an important part of the Government’s plan for New Zealand to become carbon neutral by 2050. 

sgfleet New Zealand’s managing director, Geoff Tipene, says NZTA data shows there are now around 8,200 EVs registered on New Zealand roads including new and used vehicles. He told Management the number has doubled since last year and it’s on target to quite rapidly exceed the Government target of 23,000 vehicles by 2020.

sgfleet has been in the New Zealand market for about eight years and they are seeing a lot of interest in EVs. 

Tipene says the price of EVs are coming down with the Hyundai Ionic in the market with a price range comparable to that of a Ford Mondeo. 

“So companies can do the cost analysis and that has opened up the market for people that were holding back because of the capital cost.” 

Tipene says part of his company’s role as a fleet manager for all customers is to make sure the vehicles are fit for purpose. They help customers by providing feedback from other clients who are driving EVs so the business involved can tap into others experiences around car charging and use.

“We have clients who have had electric vehicles for 12 months now and don’t even talk about the charging any more. They are used to it and know where they have to go as just part of a normal work day.”

He says clients being able to talk to other EV owners makes the process much easier for new EV users.

As to whether they are more expensive than other fleet vehicles, Tipene says over time EV’s  total cost of ownership will come down and clients also value being seen as  good corporate citizens.

 “Our clients who are 100 percent electric, want to be role models. For other customers total cost of ownership comparison is important. You can’t compare an EV and a Yaris they are two different animals.”

While many of their clients are already moving into the EV area, he is also noticing that when the company is invited to tender for new business, there is often a provision in the tender documents for EVs.

sgfleet also helps it customers decide if an EV fleet is right for them by tracking their daily mileage. “We can give them data on what they are doing [each day] and if EVs could work for their staff depending on mileage and the range of different EVs.”

He says some companies want to commit but require usage and data first.

Tipene is also seeing a rise in the use of telematics in vehicles with about 80 percent of the fleets they manage now having some form of telematics as part of their clients’ health and safety regimes.  

He says if someone has got technical problems they know where the vehicles is and who is closest geographically to fix the car.

It also helps customers with their monthly reporting stats and if there is ongoing heavy acceleration or braking or excessive speed, they get live notifications of what’s happening and can inform their client in real time, if  necessary.

 It also provides an accurate record of usage and monitors road user charges, car servicing and fuel data. 

“There is an enormous amount of information and driver profile behaviour information. It helps keep the fleet as efficient as possible when it is being used at an optimal level.”

Internationally the company is working on total mobility solutions helping clients get from A to B by the most efficient means possible. In New Zealand, he says, more and more mobility solutions will be needed where clients pay as they go, pointing to the scheme in Christchurch.

He says the fleet business will have to adjust and move with those needs but there will always be a requirement for companies to lease vehicles. How the vehicle is used and who is using it will change but somebody has to own that vehicle, manage the vehicle, the usage and own the data.  

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