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Fleet Street: The EV market gets buy-in from Kiwi corporates

When it comes to electric vehicles, the government is thinking big: 64,000 EVs on New Zealand roads by 2021. It’s a noble goal, but, in part two of an ongoing series on the rise of electric vehicles, we see why it’s going to take more than good intentions from the government to achieve it. 

The incentives, however modest, are beginning to roll out. One current trial is giving EV drivers access to certain priority bypass lanes on state highways in Auckland; another is offering road-user charge exemptions for EV vehicles; and, last year, the National government announced that one-in-three cars in the government’s 15,500 car fleet will be electric by 2021.

Although it’s still well behind EV-leading nations like Norway, it’s a good start. And, more importantly, it’s not just government that’s ready for the switch. Corporate New Zealand is increasingly investing in walking the socially-responsible talk.

“The reasons for upgrading to EV fleets – and the challenges – vary from company to company,” says Andy Sinclair, GM of Hyundai New Zealand. “For some, it will depend greatly on exactly what their usage is. For others, the value it has is from a marketing perspective and the understanding of long-term cost savings against the up-front purchase price.”

Sinclair says that when it comes to EV fleet rollouts in New Zealand, the electricity industry is part of the advance guard, with all of the major players in the space pro-actively pursuing brand-friendly EV options.

Procurement manager at Meridian Energy Nick Robilliard says its first steps into an EV fleet transition shows just what’s possible for Kiwi corporates looking to do the right thing. “We looked at it for about a year before we hit go,” he says. “We wanted to be in the game, but in the early days we really had nothing that showed it made sense.”

That changed when Robilliard crunched data from the company’s fleet GPS system and realised the distances being travelled by staff were well within the capabilities of current EVs. The company purchased four Hyundai IONIQs. The PR department could easily see the benefits, but the bean counters needed to be convinced too.

“In terms of capital, we didn’t have to do anything silly around spending money that we hadn’t forecast in the budget,” says Robilliard.

“It was equitable with what we would have spent on the replacement of normal combustion engine vehicles anyway, so I didn’t have to go and ask for special money for it. We had the numbers, we had the interest and then we had that fruit. “It was a quality, safe product with good range. That made it a really nice fit, even before taking the brand alignment with Hyundai into consideration. I think we largely nailed it.”

And the energy industry isn’t the only sector recognising the brand-value benefits. The Department of Conservation has recently taken its first steps into EV terrain.

“We didn’t want to be leading edge, but we definitely wanted to be taking advantage of the technology as part of our own sustainability push,” says Rex Ambler, fleet manager at DOC.

The organisation focused on securing company-wide buy-in when upgrading last year, creating a bespoke induction exercise designed to familiarise staff with the new tech.

“People can be apprehensive about new technology so we decided to go through an induction process and actually educate staff about what we were doing,” he says.

Ambler says the number of charging networks around New Zealand is growing rapidly, so range isn’t the issue people think it is.

“We’re still learning as we go, but the feedback we’ve had is that once you’ve had a little bit of training and you’ve had a little time in the driver’s seat, it’s so simple. We’ve now got staff that are very keen on making the most of new technology and making environmentally friendly choices, so it’s been a real success in that respect. For us, the future is electric,” he says.

If you’re a business wanting to understand how you can make the first steps in electrifying your fleet, call Hyundai New Zealand on 0800 493 640, or visit www.hyundai.co.nz/electric-cars

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