What is Contact Energy’s involvement with EVs?

At Contact, we’re committed to creating a sustainable future. As part of our commitment, we’re doing all we can to reduce our emissions and help our customers reduce theirs. This includes electrifying our fleet and supporting our customers and the public to make the switch to EVs.

How is Contact’s fleet transition to EVs progressing?

We’re proud of the speed we’ve transitioned to EVs. By the start of this year, the proportion of electric or hybrid vehicles in our fleet surpassed the target we set in 2016 of 30%. This is now 63% and climbing, thanks to our Drive Electric commitment.

How are Contact’s EVs used?

All of our vehicles are pool vehicles used by staff to travel between local stations and off-road on our geothermal sites, and they’re predominantly charged on our premises. We also make our chargers available to staff to charge their own EVs for free. Once some of the EVs come to the end of their three-year lease, we’ll give our people the option to pay the residual amount owing and keep the vehicle.

One of our EVs (a 24kWh Nissan Leaf) plays a more unique role. It’s stationed at Taupō airport for our Contact staff to use when they visit the Wairakei power station, about a 40km round trip. Using the Leaf, instead of rentals, is saving us around $42,000 annually and compared with travelling the same distance in a petrol vehicle, has helped us reduce our emissions by 82% for these journeys. We’ve also installed a charger at the airport, which anyone can use to charge up for free.

What (if any) barriers has Contact overcome while transitioning to EVs

Despite EVs being good for business and the country, there’s still a few barriers to overcome to make the switch easier. For us, we’d love to have more EVs in our fleet. A key challenge is getting access to vehicles that can tow and carry some pretty heavy loads over rough terrains and long distances. We’ve managed to swap out some utes with Nissan eNV200 vans where their practical day-to-day use profile allows.

For our business customers, range anxiety and how to go about building infrastructure are top of mind. This is changing, of course, with a wider variety of EVs with greater range becoming available.

How is Contact encouraging their customers to transition to EVs?

We’re doing a number of things to help our customers overcome the perceived barriers, including loaning them our EVs. This has been an excellent way for our customers to learn how to use and charge them and overcome fears associated with range limitations. Using them for extended periods also helps them to understand their requirements when it comes time to make decisions about electrifying their fleet. We also help out by working with them to assess their needs, build the business case, develop a transition plan and install infrastructure.

For consumers, a key challenge is the higher upfront costs and a lower range than an equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle. In our experience these higher costs and reduced range are offset by much lower running costs for an EV. Charging and EV is equivalent to paying around 30 cents per litre for petrol. And we’ve found that the reality is that the range of an EV on a single charge is more than sufficient to cover the average distance travelled by motorists on most days of the year.

Another key to adoption is making EVs easy to recharge. So, we’ve been getting involved in growing New Zealand’s Electric Highway and making charging more accessible.

In August last year, we partnered with ChargeNet and Wellington City Council to install three 50Kw electric vehicle fast-charging stations in Wellington. For 20c a minute and 25c a kW, just twenty minutes on one of these will get you through to Levin, no problems.

The new chargers are working out well and being used more and more each month. It’s great to see them becoming a regular refuelling point for a growing number of local taxis and courier vans. Our two best performers at Grey and Barnett Streets are in action over 350 times a month now.

With the Ministry of Transport goal of reaching approximately 64,000 electric vehicles on our roads by the end of 2021, the demand for charging stations will only grow.

Given New Zealand’s electricity generation is mostly renewable, EVs that run on locally produced renewable energy is a logical next step in reducing emissions.

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