New Zealand‘s first intercity electric freighter hits the road!

6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 29, 2019

Get ready, change is here – the electric vehicle revolution is happening. Alsco NZ (an operator within the linen, uniforms and first aid supply industry sector) has unveiled the first intercity electric vehicle to enter service in its fleet. It‘s also the first of its type in the New Zealand market. 

The vehicle is based on a Hino GH 1828 – stripped of all its diesel-burning bits and fitted out by SEA Electric with its SEA-Drive 180 power system. In order to shift the Hino‘s laden bulk of 22.5 tonnes, it offers up 259kW of continuous power that peaks at 372kW maximum power. The big figures, though, are the torque numbers that rival much larger diesel-powered vehicles: 1852Nm of continuous torque, and maximum torque of 3500Nm.

Aiding the electric powertrain is the streamlined body built by Action Manufacturing that incorporates a sloping roofline and side skirts to smooth airflow and reduce drag.

Alsco estimates that it will save at least 25,000 litres of diesel and 67,610kg of CO2 per year. With an annual dollar value saved in diesel and maintenance ($17,851) and road user charges ($34,387) combined with the EECA grant incentive of approximately $50,000, the Heavy EV is expected to recover the additional capital spend within just six months.

These numbers are not insignificant considering that of Alsco‘s fleet of 350 vehicles, the 15 diesel-powered freighters account for one-third of the fleet‘s fuel consumption. Unsurprisingly, the company aims to replace all 15 diesel-powered freighters with Heavy EVs in the long term.

The estimated savings are based on real data using a laden 16-tonne diesel truck travelling the 284km between Rotorua, Taupo and Tauranga five days a week. This, Alsco‘s shortest heavy-distribution route, is where the new vehicle will operate. While the range to depletion of the batteries is only 200km, Alsco has installed charging stations at all three depots on the route, so the Heavy EV can recharge during all operational load and unload times. This will enable the driver to complete the Rotorua/Taupo return, and subsequently Rotorua/Tauranga return, within a normal eight-hour shift, says the company.

Mark Roberts, group general manager Alsco NZ, says that the company recently experienced ‘an awakening‘.

“We need to be consciously aware of our impacts on the environment and communities in which we operate. So, 18 months ago, we launched our four bold energy goals to be implemented by 2030: to reduce water usage by one third, to generate zero waste, to eliminate coal as an energy source, and to convert one third of our vehicle fleet to electric. We‘re taking on the challenge now to reduce emissions.”

The reveal was also attended by Megan Woods, Minister for Energy and Resources, and James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, who both heaped praise on the initiative. 

“New Zealand‘s EV population has experienced exponential growth, with 17,000 now on the country‘s roads. This truck will test the performance of EV technology in everyday terrain and how businesses can test the logistics of charging a vehicle of this size. These are among the technological barriers to businesses making the switch. The sooner we can overcome them the sooner we can make meaningful progress,” said Woods.

Shaw said the truck wasn‘t a business necessity, but demonstrated there is a future for heavy EVs in New Zealand.

“The launch is indicative of the EV trend in New Zealand, something that was not anticipated a great deal of time ago. Innovation is a consequence of constraints and the biggest constraint is the requirement to grow the economy and deal with a growing population, but reduce carbon emissions to negative figures. This project has started with that constraint and made it work.”

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) chief executive Andrew Caseley said that the project is a great example of what EECA‘s Low Emission Contestable Fund is for.

“Alsco is pushing the boundaries, proving that electric heavy freight is possible, good for profitability, and good for the planet. It‘s a compelling case for the industry to get on board.”