Introducing New Zealand‘s first 100% electric refrigerated logistics truck

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 30, 2020

Foodstuffs and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) have partnered to build New Zealand‘s first electric refrigerated truck. From the tailgate to the engine and the fridge-freezer unit that sits on top, everything in and on the vehicle is powered electrically.

With EECA‘s backing, Foodstuffs pulled together a brains trust of some of the country‘s brightest and best transport, electrical and refrigeration engineers to convert the standard Isuzu FVY 24-tonne, 6-wheel diesel truck to be 100% electric powered. The ‘almost silent‘ electric refrigerated truck, which has no tailpipe emissions, is the latest of several projects to see Foodstuffs and EECA collaborate in the drive towards a carbon neutral New Zealand by 2050. 

“This really is a huge feat of Kiwi ingenuity,” said Mike Sammons, head of sustainability for Foodstuffs New Zealand. “We couldn‘t purchase a fully electric refrigerated truck, because it didn‘t exist, so we had the idea to custom build one.” 

Foodstuffs made a successful application to the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund for co-funding support. “We could immediately see the potential,” said EECA transport portfolio manager Richard Briggs. “Heavy vehicles make up less than five percent of the national fleet, but are responsible for 29 percent of land transport emissions, so decarbonising the heavy fleet as much as possible will have a huge, positive impact.”

EECA had previously co-funded Foodstuffs to deliver 61 fast charge stations, 28 electric delivery vans and two ambient trucks. “Foodstuffs has developed a great track record in this space, proving the viability of electrification,” added Briggs.

The electric truck will operate from the Foodstuffs Distribution Centre in Grenada, Wellington under the stewardship of Foodstuffs North Island Transport. Fleet and safety manager Blair Inglis was instrumental in driving the project forward. “We knew from the start building a fully electric EV truck would be a challenge and we had our fair share of them along the way, including Covid-19, but we always knew if we could pull it off, this innovation could set the direction for the future of commercial transport in New Zealand and that‘s very exciting,” he said.

After extensive testing and driver training, the electric truck recently set out on its first official delivery run to New World Miramar, a 60km round trip. With a range of between 150 and 200km and capable of transporting 14 pallets of product at temperatures as low as minus 15° C, the truck completed its inaugural journey with ease.

Bagish Bansal, driver for the Foodstuffs North Island Transport team, was the driver on the electric truck‘s first official run. “I really liked it. The ride was smooth, it was really quiet in the cab and it‘s great to know that you‘re helping the environment while doing your job; that feels really good. I really hope this is the shape of things to come for my occupation,” he said.

With carbon emissions from transport currently at 18% in New Zealand, Sammons is optimistic this new innovation will have a role to play in transport carbon reduction. “We‘re 100 percent committed to playing our part in creating more sustainable transport solutions. Building a fully electric refrigeration truck is a massive leap towards a carbon-free future for New Zealand.”