Fleet Safety

In March 2016 Air New Zealand an­nounced it was tran­si­tion­ing more than 75 of its light ve­hi­cles to elec­tric, sav­ing around 65,000 litres of fuel per year in the process. Glenn Baker re­ports.

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Twelve months on, the air­line is well on the way to achiev­ing that ob­jec­tive. It was a bold de­ci­sion, and one that re­flects the on­go­ing com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity and car­bon re­duc­tion across the business of our na­tional car­rier. Twelve months af­ter an­nounc­ing its in­ten­tion to elec­trify a large pro­por­tion of its light ve­hi­cle ground fleet, Air New Zealand is re­al­is­ing both the en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­i­cal ben­e­fits of the move. With elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVS) ap­prox­i­mately seven times cheaper to run than fos­sil-fuel pow­ered ve­hi­cles, it’s es­ti­mated that the move to EVS is sav­ing around 65,000 litres of fuel per year for the air­line. While it’s too soon to pro­vide any op­er­a­tional per­for­mance data on the EV fleet, staff have noth­ing but pos­i­tive things to say about the tran­si­tion, and are ap­pre­cia­tive of the en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­i­cal im­pact of the tran­si­tion. The air­line has now com­mis­sioned all the EVS on its orig­i­nal shop­ping list – com­pris­ing 36 fully elec­tric BMW i3 cars for its sales team, 12 Mit­subishi Out­lander Plug-in Hy­brids for use on longer range trips, and 28 Re­nault Kan­goo Maxi ZE 100 per­cent elec­tric vans for use on and around air­ports through­out New Zealand. It was a care­fully con­sid­ered selection process. The BMW i3 was named New Zealand Car of the Year for 2015 and has won nu­mer­ous awards over­seas. As well as be­ing fully elec­tric it has a to­tally sus­tain­able de­sign, with much of its in­te­rior and body crafted from the same car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced poly­mer that you’ll find on the fuse­lage of the air­line’s Boe­ing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet. The i3s, kit­ted out in bold Air New Zealand

liv­ery, have been mak­ing their pres­ence felt on ur­ban streets. It’s a stand­out ve­hi­cle in so many ways and a ma­jor step down the road to true zero-emis­sion mo­tor­ing. Not only is the i3 man­u­fac­tured us­ing sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als, there is even end-of-life sus­tain­abil­ity in the form of the abil­ity to re­cy­cle al­most ev­ery­thing that goes into its pro­duc­tion. Charg­ing the i3 can be com­pleted in six to eight hours from a con­ven­tional house­hold power point (although you can shave 30 per­cent off that time if the op­tional BMW Wall­box is in­stalled). Range is not a prob­lem for the av­er­age com­mute ei­ther – the claimed range is be­tween 130 and 160 kilo­me­tres on elec­tric power and up to 340 kilo­me­tres when the Range Ex­ten­der (Rex) – a 647cc petrol pow­ered gen­er­a­tor – kicks in. The Kan­goo is a unique choice too, as Air New Zealand is the first cus­tomer in this coun­try to de­ploy the ve­hi­cle. Lo­cal and over­seas re­ports es­ti­mate real world range be­tween 100 and 120km km per charge, de­pend­ing on load and tem­per­a­ture. And speak­ing of load, one of the key fea­tures of this elec­tric van – the big­gest in the Kan­goo line-up – is its abil­ity to carry lengthy cargo items. The pas­sen­ger seat folds flat into the floor, and a bar­rier swings around the driver’s seat, which means items of up to 2.7 me­tres can be eas­ily ac­com­mo­dated. As well as in­tro­duc­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cles pro­gres­sively over 2016, Air New Zealand has also been busy in­stalling charg­ing points at its key car parking fa­cil­i­ties to sup­port the com­pany’s new elec­tric ve­hi­cles. This was in ad­di­tion to the charge points that it had al­ready in­stalled in a num­ber of the air­line’s cus­tomer parking fa­cil­i­ties. Elec­tric is the theme right across Air New Zealand’s air­port ground ser­vice equip­ment as well – next time you’re at an air­port see if you can spot the elec­tri­fied golf carts and trac­tors out on the tar­mac. And where elec­tric op­tions don’t cur­rently ex­ist, the air­line is work­ing with Z En­ergy to pur­chase bio-diesel from its site un­der devel­op­ment in Wiri. Fol­low­ing on from its elec­tric ve­hi­cle an­nounce­ment early last year, in Oc­to­ber 2016 Air New Zealand launched an ini­tia­tive, along with Mer­cury En­ergy and with the sup­port of West­pac, to in­crease the num­ber of EVS on New Zealand roads by 75 per­cent within three years. This ini­tia­tive tar­gets more than 30 lead­ing busi­nesses com­mit­ting to tran­si­tion at least 30 per­cent of their com­pany ve­hi­cle fleets to plug-in elec­tric ve­hi­cles by 2019.

A brief pro­file

Air New Zealand has just over 100 ve­hi­cles in its light ve­hi­cle fleet – which in­cludes cars, SUVS, vans and utes. The fleet is a mix­ture of both owned and leased ve­hi­cles, and as you would ex­pect with price-tags well above diesel or petrol equiv­a­lents, the 75 elec­tric (and hy­brid) ve­hi­cles are all leased. The up­grade pol­icy for leased ve­hi­cles is ob­vi­ously tied in with the length of the lease. For ve­hi­cles that the air­line owns, mileage and ve­hi­cle age are ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tions, along with a range of other fac­tors. The air­line also chooses to manage its en­tire fleet in­ter­nally, ow­ing to the fact that it is a mix of leased and owned ve­hi­cles. It part­ners with sev­eral ve­hi­cle leas­ing com­pa­nies and, as with any business part­ner­ship, be­lieves ex­cel­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the key to mak­ing these re­la­tion­ships work suc­cess­fully over the years. Not sur­pris­ingly, ve­hi­cle main­te­nance is a mix of in­ter­nal and external man­age­ment. For the leased ve­hi­cles main­te­nance man­age­ment falls in line with man­u­fac­turer poli­cies – and for ve­hi­cles the air­line owns, main­te­nance is in ac­cor­dance with the ve­hi­cle warranty re­quire­ments or stan­dard ser­vic­ing guide­lines (such as six months or ev­ery ten thou­sand kilo­me­tres).

Health and safety

As part of its pro­gramme to tran­si­tion to elec­tric ve­hi­cles, Air New Zealand has been con­duct­ing train­ing and driver aware­ness ses­sions with its staff. This has in­cluded con­sid­er­a­tions around how to safely charge the BMW i3s, Mit­subishi Out­lander Plug-in Hy­brids and Re­nault Kan­goo vans at the air­line’s own charg­ing sta­tions, as well as the homes of staff mem­bers. It goes with­out say­ing that air­line staff driv­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cles are also re­quired to com­ply with New Zealand road rules at all times.


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