Why did Kings Plant Barn make the decision to electrify their fleet?

Kings changed owners two years ago and the new owners saw an opportunity to be truer to the environmental values we stand for at Kings, by reducing our carbon footprint and making a statement to our customers. We believe strongly that the quickest way for cheaper EVs to become available for most New Zealanders (who don’t buy new cars) is to get more new EVs into corporate fleets. Once they pass through our hands, they will be available for Kiwis to buy and drive on the used market at affordable prices.

How many EVs are in Kings Plant Barn’s fleet and are their plans for more?

Kings currently have 7 EVs, a combination of 40kWh Nissan Leafs and Mitsubishi Plugin Hybrid Outlanders. The total fleet is 19 vehicles, so we are 37% Electric. We’re waiting anxiously for some larger EV vans to be available to replace the 8 Vans driven by our branches – suitable models aren’t there yet. We only have three ICE vehicles left that will be replaced as they roll off lease or age out of the fleet. If you factor that in, we are 70% of the way on our electrification journey.

What challenges has Kings Plant Barn faced in the transition and how were they overcome?

We found the Drive Electric white paper on fleet adoption a great help when choosing vehicles and understanding the electrification journey. We had some missteps on the way, including testing some Vans without fast charging which were not fit for our purpose. But strong demand for the vehicles on the second-hand market and understanding dealers meant the mistakes haven’t cost us anything.

How have staff responded to the EVs?

Everyone who drives them loves them, of course. We think it helps morale and gives the staff another reason to choose to work here. Our Give and Grow service, which is focused on plant gifting and plant-related services for Corporates also reports that it helps reinforce our sustainability messaging. At some level, the EVs we drive are a sales tool as much as a mode of transport.

How and where are the EVs primarily charged?

We pay our staff an allowance to charge at home, which is much cheaper than we would be paying in fuel bills. Our support office also has some EV parking for staff to top up at work (especially those Outlanders), but the primary charging is done at employees’ homes. Where staff haven’t had appropriate facilities available at home, we have installed them at our cost.

How have customers responded to the EV charging station at your Silverdale branch?

We are very proud to host the Vector station, and we’re sure that on any given day a few EV owners have had a flat white at the Kings Garden Cafe in the Silverdale Branch while topping up. It’s been the start point of a few EV rallies, and the biggest issue we had was one Saturday morning last year when our big Spring Sale coincided with 60 EVs crowding the car park waiting for a rally to begin! Not so great for the business when the regular customers can’t find carparks… On the whole though it has been very positive.

Do you have any tips or advice for businesses thinking about electrifying their fleets?

Corporate Fleets have a really important role to play in getting EVs mainstreamed in NZ. While EVs are still out of reach for most Kiwis (until the government gets the feebate system up and running), we can do our part by buying new EVs now and selling them on the used market when we finish using them. We get a lot of recognition from our customers for making the effort to go Electric, so I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to start out with a couple of vehicles and see how it goes. It’s been a very rewarding journey.

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