New Zealand's first electric courier vehicle

29 September 2010

Shane Collins was just a normal Pace courier driver doing his job around the streets of Wellington in his diesel vehicle. Now he’s helping spearhead technology which may change the face of New Zealand Post Group’s vehicle fleet forever.

Pace courier driver Shane Collins will be testing the Mitsubishi iMiEV around the streets of Wellington on his normal delivery run.Shane will be driving the all-electric Mitsubishi ‘iMiEV’ vehicle on his Pace courier run as part of a trial to test out the technology in New Zealand conditions. The trial is no gimmick – Shane will be putting the car through its paces in real business conditions on his normal run and will be expected to maintain his service delivery standards.

Instead of pulling into a service station to refuel, Shane will be plugging the car into a standard power point overnight. To fully charge the car from ‘empty’ takes seven-and-a-half hours.

New Zealand Post Group is proud to be a partner in the electric car initiative led by the Wellington City Council. The City Council and Mitsubishi has been joined by New Zealand Post and project partners Meridian and The Wellington Company to trial the vehicles over the next two years.

The numbers for New Zealand Post are compelling when it considered whether to examine alternative energy technologies. We operate a large vehicle fleet to deliver mail, courier and other services. Across the entire business the Group utilises seven aircraft, over 120 trucks, 100 vans, 172 motorcycles and 112 forklifts. In addition it manages contracts with over 1,500 drivers who ensure our courier and mail products are transported and delivered throughout New Zealand.

The land-based fleet alone guzzles 22 million litres of diesel, petrol and LPG a year at a cost of more than $26 million. Fuel consumption accounts for 87 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions by the New Zealand Post Group. New Zealand Post Group has made good progress in the past three years cutting emissions by 8.6 percent, but given the large fuel component, it makes sense to investigate alternative energy sources.

Watching the trial with close interest will be New Zealand Post Group CEO Brian Roche. He says it is important that the Group explores innovative energy technologies for the sake of the business as well as the planet.

“New Zealand Post utilises 1900 road vehicles, consuming significant amounts of fossil fuels at great cost. We have an obligation to explore alternatives which could deliver cheaper, more efficient and sustainable solutions to our fleet demands.

“There is a clear link between our investment in reducing environmental impacts and reducing the operating costs of our business. This trial is about good business sense as well as sustainability.

“New Zealand Post Group needs to trial electric vehicle technology in real time, on New Zealand roads, in local conditions if we’re to be able to make informed decisions about our vehicle fleet in the future,” said Brian Roche.

The rubber literally hits the road in the trial for Pace Couriers. Driver, Shane Collins, has a monthly diesel bill of around $600. As an owner-driver, those costs come out of what he earns. Any savings he can make have an immediate and very real impact on his bottom line. The estimated cost of fully charging the iMiEV to meet the requirements of Shane’s delivery schedule will be around $25 a week.

When New Zealand Post Group was given the opportunity to be involved in the trial, Pace emerged as a logical business unit to take participate.

Shane’s daily route is up to 100 kms, with 36 scheduled stops in addition to the ad hoc business he receives. With a range of 155 kms and suited to an urban run, the iMiEV is a good fit.

Pace General Manager Alan Piper says the trial provides exciting commercial and sustainability possibilities for the company.

” Fuel remains a major part of any courier’s cost base and we have been working hard with our drivers to ensure they are driving modern and fuel efficient vehicles.

“Trialling a vehicle which uses no fossil fuels and has zero usage carbon emissions was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“This could change the face of the courier industry as we know it today. First we need to put the technology in a real work situation in local conditions to test and learn.

“Pace will be sharing its data and findings with its partners in this trial - Mitsubishi, Wellington City Council, Meridian and The Wellington Company – to assess cost, efficiency, emissions and power use,” said Alan Piper.

While New Zealand Post Group is a leader among postal and courier operators in electric vehicle technology in this country, postal operators overseas are already well advanced.

France’s La Poste is taking delivery of 250 vehicles this year for use by posties. La Poste is part of a government-backed consortium which aims to put 100,000 electric vehicles on French roads over the next five years.

The U.S. Postal Service is trialling an all-electric mail delivery truck in Washington D.C. for the next year as it looks to converting some of it’s enormous 142,000-strong vehicle fleet to more sustainable energy. FedEx has quickly followed suit, putting four electric courier trucks on the streets of Los Angeles in June.

Deutsche Post DHL will introduce ten electric courier vehicles next year for use in various cities in Germany. Other major postal and courier operators such as Royal Mail and TNT are deploying electric vehicle technology as well.

The emphasis in the exercise has to be on the word ‘trial’. New Zealand Post Group will measure, monitor and analyse. However as postal operators overseas are already demonstrating, it is important to get involved with new technology to test, learn and help make informed decisions for the future. Shane Collins is setting off on that road to that future in a bright yellow and red electric car around the streets of Wellington.

Questions & answers

Why is New Zealand Post Group involved in this trial?

New Zealand Post Group operates a large vehicle fleet to deliver its mail, courier and other services. Across the entire business the Group utilises seven aircraft, over 120 trucks, 100 vans, 172 motorcycles and 112 forklifts. In addition New Zealand Post manages contracts with over 1,500 drivers who ensure courier and mail products are transported and delivered throughout New Zealand.

Fuel costs for our land fleet alone are in excess of $26 million per annum while fuel emissions account for 87 percent of all emissions by the group. It makes sense to investigate new technologies which will help New Zealand Post Group lower costs and to run a more sustainable business.

Who else is involved in the trial?

Wellington City Council is working with Mitsubishi Motors, New Zealand Post Group, Meridian and The Wellington Company to trial the electric vehicles for two years. The Wellington City Council is driving the initiative to look at the viability of electric vehicles in the city. Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says having partners to trial the vehicles in a business environment is crucial to the exercise.

Is using the electric iMiEV practical in terms of cost and operation?

The trial is about learning more about the technology and how it works in a real, business environment. This is an investment to gather hard information that New Zealand Post Group can use to make informed decisions about its fleet in the future. New Zealand Post Group isn’t about to adopt an electric vehicle fleet tomorrow, but it needs to be ready and informed when making decisions on its fleet in the future.

Is using the iMiEV just a gimmick?

Absolutely not. This is about hard research, in a real work environment in New Zealand conditions. New Zealand Post Group, through its express courier business Pace, is putting the car to work. We will analyse range, time and cost on an actual courier run. Data gathered now will help us make more informed decisions in the future.

When will the iMiEV be put to work and where?

The iMiEV will be utilised on an inner-city Pace courier run in Wellington from the week beginning 4 October. To start with, the car will be trialled over a 20 km circuit which contains 14 scheduled drop-off/pick-up points (with ad hoc drop-off/pick-ups on top of that). Over time, the trial will be expanded out to the full run of approximately 100 kms which contains a minimum of 36 drop-off/pick-up points.

How far can I drive the iMiEV?

Fully charged, the vehicle has a range of up to 155 kms. The range diminishes the depending on terrain, the speed it’s driven, and the use of heaters, air conditioning.

How long does the iMiEV take to charge

Charging the iMiEV overnight takes about 7.5 hours using a 15 Amp power outlet. Any household plug socket will do.

How much does it cost to charge the iMiEV?

It is estimated a full charge costs about $5 based on 25 cents/kWh domestic power rate. The monthly bill for full charging would be approximately $100. This compares favourably to the monthly diesel bill of $600 the driver involved in the trial has been paying.

How does the iMiEV perform?

The iMiEV’s efficient lightweight electric motor produces the same power (47kW) as the equivalent turbo charged 660cc motor found in the Mitsubishi i-car and can achieve a top speed of 130km/h. The electric motor produces almost double the torque (180N.m) of the equivalent turbo charged 660cc petrol motor found in the Mitsubishi i-car providing for a high rate of acceleration.

Can I buy an iMiEV and for how much?

While the iMiEV is a production model rather than a prototype, just the five vehicles being used in the trial are currently available in New Zealand. Mitsubishi says as production capacity increases over the next two years more vehicles will become available. Pricing is not currently available for the iMiEV, but as with any new technology, like cell phones and laptops, the prices will start high and reduce as economies of scale are generated.

How ‘green’ is the iMiEV

The iMiEV is a zero-emissions use car. This means that driving the car does not result in any emissions. It does use electricity to recharge so there will be some greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of the car. However the ‘cleaner’ the electricity generation, the ‘greener’ the car. A total of 73 percent of New Zealand’s electricity generation comes from renewable energy which means overall the operation of the iMiEV will result in significantly less emissions than petrol or diesel operated vehicle. It also costs much less to run.

What are the ‘specs’?

  • Range: up to 155km depending on driving conditions
  • Top speed: 130km/h
  • Passengers: can seat four comfortably, plus luggage
  • Motor: 47kW permanent magnet synchronous engine
  • Curb Weight: 1100kg
  • (L) 3395 x (W) 1475 x (H) 1600mm
  • Voltage: 240V AC Charging
  • Charge time: 7.5 hours (230V,13A)
  • Drive time CO2 emissions: 0gm/km