In late 2018 Tourism Holdings Limited (thl), added to its New Zealand fleet 10 electric motorhomes. Called the Britz eVolve, this 2-berth motorhome is 100% electric and comes with pre-curated itineraries and a mobile application with electric vehicle (eRV) charging station locations found around New Zealand. The Britz eVolve provides customers departing from Auckland and Queenstown a truly zero-emission travel experience. To learn more about this achievement, we spoke to Jo Allison, Chief Operations Officer at thl.

Why Electric and why now?

The team at thl are committed to becoming a Future-Fit Business (FFB) and is transforming itself to ensure that long term sustainable value is generated from the resources we rely on. You will be right to wonder ‘what is a future-fit business’?

“A Future-Fit Business is one which is expected to contribute to a Future-Fit Society. A Future-Fit Society protects the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth by being environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive.”

Chairman Rob Campbell, FY19 Integrated Report

FFB gives us a model & benchmark to measure our business from a much broader perspective than how we have in the past. FFB translates 30+ years of research into a set of 23 break-even goals. These goals help us set the right environmental and social ambitions, make better day-to-day decisions in pursuit of those ambitions, then helps explain progress more effectively to stakeholders, investors and customers about how we are balancing the expectations of today with the needs of the future.

Over the long term, we want to not only have a ‘neutral’ impact but have a positive one to help undo some of the damage our activities have caused over the years. The launch of the Britz eVolve is a big stride towards helping us to do this where we are reducing the environmental impact of our customer footprint by moving away from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels – consuming these harm the planet, and it is not lost on us that many of our customers travel long distances to enjoy the experiences we offer them.

What exactly is the Britz eVolve and how many do you have on the fleet?

The Britz eVolve is 100% electric 2berth motorhome with a full toilet, shower and kitchen. We designed the motorhome as a fully electric experience to provide customers with the lowest emission holiday experience possible. This means the eVolve has an electric drive train powering the vehicle engine, solar panels to support back of house charging, an electric cooktop, along with electric hot water & heating. There are 10 Britz eVolve motorhomes on the fleet, you can pick them up from thl’s Auckland & Queenstown branches.

How did you build an electric motorhome?

The Britz eVolve has been built right here in New Zealand by the fantastic team at Action Manufacturing based in Albany, on Auckland’s North Shore. The motorhome is built on an LDV EV80 van cab chassis. Early in the design process we collaborated with Action Manufacturing to build a prototype vehicle so we could test what materials and interior design would work best for the eRV to conserve weight and ultimately help us to gain more range from the electric motorhome once fully built.

Check out this Seven Sharp segment to see the fleet vehicle coming off the manufacturing line at Action Manufacturing in late 2018.

What have you learnt so far?

To help us learn fast the team at Action Manufacturing helped to convert a Nissan eNV200 van into an electric camper, which affectionately became known by our crew as Tiny.

Tiny became our test EV which crew took away for a few days to gather insights and share stories about their electric experiences. We also used Tiny to test what charging would mean for our customers on the road and overnight at holiday parks, along with giving us the opportunity to explore what branch processes needed to be updated or changed when it came to detailing, charging and preparing an electric motorhome for customer pickup.

From the early days of Tiny, through building our first prototype electric motorhome and the launch of the 10 eVolve fleet vehicles, our EV programme has given us a deep understanding of the global EV ecosystem, and allowed us to build a deliberate and thoughtful model to assess why, how, and when to explore future eRV opportunities going forward.

What is the customer saying about the low emissions experience?

As you’d likely expect the biggest traveller concern has been ‘range anxiety’ – ‘Where do I charge? How do I know I have enough range to travel?. So our approach was to develop charging infrastructure in partnership with Holiday Parks New Zealand and ChargeMaster which aimed to take the stress out of charging for tourists traveling around some of New Zealand’s most beautiful regions. The partnership included funding from EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) to install 54 eRV charging sites at 24 Holiday Parks in the North and South Island.

We developed comprehensive, yet easy-to-read guides about driving and charging an eRV, and integrated eRV. charging locations into the thl version of CamperMate (available on mobile devices). These electric itineraries promote a localised experience and are curated in conjunction with local communities and tourism partners, unlocking ‘off the beaten track’ opportunities for customers to experience the people and places of New Zealand.

One of our recent customers Wiebe Wakker, is on a purpose-driven adventure (plugmeinproject.com) travelling the world by EV aiming to inspire, educate and accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon future.

“New Zealand is doing really well, every 70km on 90% of the highway network you can find a fast-charger. And with this I can fully charge the car in two hours. The first two days of driving the Britz EV camper have been a joy. The range of 120km is plenty to make it from fast-charger to fast-charger, almost every 70km there is one, which is really good! I have not experienced this density in any country I’ve been to before.”

Wiebe Wakker* – Plug Me In

What does the future of electric look like for thl?

The journey we have been on to launch the Britz eVolve has given us critical insights to guide decision-making for electric vehicle product development, operations, retail sales and marketing. We are committed to continuing testing how to manufacture more efficiently, reduce costs, waste less, and reduce ours, and our customers’, overall footprint. To deliver on this we have set an ambitious goal to reach 5% low emission vehicles in our motorhome fleet by 2020.

Whilst we are limited by suppliers to some degree, and recognising our eRV ambitions are ahead of what is available we continue to with suppliers & manufacturers to source suitable chassis while watching global ecosystem and continuing to gather insights to learn about what our customers are looking for to reduce their travel footprints.

This continues to be where the greatest R&D effort is, with our 10 fleet eRV motorhomes in New Zealand and other trial products, including repowering and new build (eRVs) from a base “glider” chassis (a cab and chassis supplied with no engine or drive train). We are firmly committed to our long-term global goal of offering zero-emission experiences and continue to assess and evaluate alternatives to a fossil fuel-based fleet to achieve this goal.

The future of our fleet looks really exciting. We really are just getting started and we know there is a lot more to do!

Check out the Britz eVolve

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