Electric vehicles are starting to gain serious traction in New Zealand, with New Zealand Post this month announcing it has committed to investing $15 million in electric delivery vehicles for its mail and parcel business. This will give it what is believed to be the country’s largest EV fleet.
The four-wheeled battery-powered Paxster AS vehicles are designed and built in Norway, and the first tranche of 50 vehicles is expected to arrive in mid-2016.
The postal service successfully piloted them for combined parcel and mail delivery in Taranaki in 2015, and they have also been tested in road trials in Auckland and Wellington in 2014. The Paxters can carry loads of up to 200 kilograms, and are small enough to be used on footpaths.
They will be used for combined mail and parcel delivery in major centres across New Zealand, with the first EVs to be rolled out in Auckland later this year, Dawn Baggaley, corporate sustainability manager at NZ Post, said.
“This is a significant investment in alternative technology and New Zealand Post will arguably be the biggest user of road legal electric vehicles in the country,” Ms Baggaley said.
She said NZ Post had “ambitious” greenhouse gas reduction goals through to 2020, and the investment in the EVs would support it reaching them.
“The electric vehicles will complement many of the other initiatives New Zealand Post is undertaking to reduce our footprint such as using Z Energy biofuel once it is available,” she says.
Early calculations have suggested the company will make very good reductions in both fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Over a one-month period during the New Plymouth pilot, the result was a greenhouse gas reduction of over 90 per cent and a cost saving of over 85 per cent. This was based on 26 days of using 19 eco-vehicles to replace the use of three courier vans.
The posties have given the move the thumbs up.
“Many of our New Plymouth delivery agents were excited to try the vehicle, though some were nervous about the new way of delivering,” Ms Baggaley said.
“However, after a few weeks on the road, they were very happy with the eco-vehicles and said they wouldn’t want to go back to delivering on foot or by bicycle.”
The EVs can be charged with a standard wall socket, and where it is needed, the postal service will install more of them in its facilities.
“For this reason, we won’t need to access the network of slow and fast vehicle charging stations currently being set up around the country,” Ms Baggaley said.
EVs have been identified by the NZ Central Government and the major sustainability organisations in the business sector as one of the major ways the country can reduce its national carbon footprint.
Sustainable Business Network chief executive Rachel Brown said the NZ Post commitment is “very progressive and very bold”.
“That’s a significant commitment in terms of any of the companies we deal with,” she said.
“This will raise awareness of what EVs can be.”
SBN held a meeting with major NZ businesses this week on EVs, and Ms Brown said one of the outcomes was some firm commitments to invest in the alternative transport technology.
Representatives of more than 20 companies have committed to purchasing a total of 650 EVs between them, she said. The pledges came from companies including Air New Zealand, major banks, IAG, Meridian Energy, Vector and car leasing companies including UGO and Leaseplan.
“There is a massive sea change coming,” Ms Brown said.
SBN had initially had a goal of seeing 1000 new EVs on NZ roads by 2018, she said. This target has now been increased to 5000.
“There is still a business case that needs to be presented [for EVs],” she said. This could be based around sustainability, climate change, or the savings in fuel costs.
One of the considerations as the fleet grows bigger is ensuring it does not mean additional fossil fuel energy generation for electricity enters the picture. Users need to talk to their energy providers, she said, and ensure they are using renewable electricity.
“Renewable energy is a critical part of the discussion,” Ms Brown said.