Innovation marks a fresh approach to tourism
Tourism Holdings Limited is stepping away from fossil fuels to provide electric options within its campervan fleet. With a fleet of 10 electric campervans and charging stations located at holiday parks all around the country, a sustainable tour of New Zealand is now possible. The project received co-funding from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.
Image credit: Jessica Lee, supplied by THL.
About the journey
Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) provide car and motorhome rental services across New Zealand with a fleet of over 2,000 vehicles. Moving away from fossil fuels is part of THL’s sustainability plan, with the aim of offering low-emission travel of New Zealand.
Exploring New Zealand in a campervan usually means burning a lot of diesel – that is, until THL stepped in. The THL team felt that an electric campervan fleet would be the perfect way to provide all the benefits of a campervan holiday without the carbon emissions.
Saskia Verraes, THL’s General Manager for Responsible Management, started looking into electric campervan options but soon realised that general suppliers in New Zealand didn’t have anything available. She looked into importing from the UK, but eventually settled on a second-hand Nissan e-NV200 van, which was quickly converted to a clever mini campervan, internally named “Tiny”.
THL knew they needed to make this electric style of travel as easy as possible for their customers, so the team decided to create North and South Island electric travel itineraries to outline EV-friendly routes. This would help customers plan ahead with their charging by pointing out exactly where the options are along the way.
However, the team’s own trials with the e-NV200’s 120km range proved that if electric campervan travel of New Zealand was going to work, more charging stations were needed to fill some gaps. What better way to fix this than working with the Holiday Parks Association New Zealand (HPANZ) to install 50 22kW fast AC chargers were 24 holiday parks around the country.
With charging locations never more than 100km apart on the itinerary routes, customers now don’t have to worry about of charge. What’s more, the itineraries promote a slower way of travelling and the exploration of lesser discovered regions that showcase the ‘real New Zealand’.
Saskia says the in-house trials helped her team figure out first-hand “what it means to have an electric engine and how to be EV-ready from an operational perspective.” After gaining these valuable insights, the team had the confidence to go ahead with the conversion of an electric LDV-80 van chassis to a prototype campervan.
THL enlisted the help of Action Manufacturing, who were able to modify the LDV-80 chassis to build on and help extend the battery range, for example, by replacing some of the original materials with more lightweight ones.
After some more on-road testing and fine-tuning the itineraries, THL were ready to start expanding the fleet. Nine more LDV-80s were converted, with the ‘Britz e-Volve’ campervan fleet hitting the road in time for summer.
On pick-up, THL provide customers with a detailed campervan tour to help them get familiar with EV technology and answer any questions they might have. They also recommend their itineraries and reassure drivers that they have an on-road support team available 24/7.
Saskia says there has been good feedback on both the itineraries and campervans, with customers enjoying the connections they make with people because of the slower, eco-friendly style of travelling.
One of THL’s customers, Liz Carlson, drove an electric campervan around the South Island. She really enjoyed the different style of travel because it meant she had to stop to charge in little towns she might not have otherwise, and loved the campervan’s “complete lack of sound.”
Saskia says slow travel is not what some people come to NZ for, with some customers returning the vehicles after a couple of days because “they want to do things they can’t do with an electric campervan.” THL believe that although the majority mind-set is not quite there yet, “we are early, and we wanted to be.”
The electric campervan project also opened up doors for THL to spread their sustainability message that were not previously available, including being able to feature in events like EV World and Big Boys Toys with their electric prototype.
THL are working with Thinkstep on a lifecycle assessment comparison of the electric and diesel campervans to plan their next steps forward with the fleet. As part of their sustainability plan, THL is also looking to transition their New Zealand company car fleet to EVs within the next two years and invest in office e-bikes.
Scope of the Project
|Cost Per Unit
|Purchase of Nissan eNV200 and on-road costs
|Conversion of LDV80 van to an electric campervan
|Itineraries and Charging Infrastructure
|22kW fast AC charger purchase and installation
|Project marketing and management
|Operational support team
|Total Project Cost
THL tested the Nissan e-NV200 in December 2017, with the electric eLDV80 campervan conversion completed in May 2018. Nine more were converted in December, which hit the road in January 2019.
The LDV-80 was converted to electric by Action Manufacturing in Auckland and charger installation providers varied across the country.
- Be prepared to learn, do your research, and find out the costs. Talk to experts, colleagues and peers in the industry.
- Start small. Trial one EV, let staff try it, and then look to expand.
- Set deadlines but allow extra time for trading companies to complete their work. Rescheduling and delays often happen; allow extra time so this does not push back the next steps in your project.
- Install chargers at your site. These attract customers and are also good for staff. The more integrated electric vehicles and chargers are, the more they become part of the norm.
- Consider a policy to replace company cars to electric as they come up for renewal. If possible, this will help you in the move towards making your fleet electric.
- Find senior-level support for your project. THL found that Board support was crucial to the development and progression of their project.
- Consider converting an existing vehicle to electric. The availability of electric vehicles can cause delays in making the switch – consider converting an existing vehicle to electric.
Saskia describes the project as “an enormous learning curve.” Because the electric campervan project was the first of its kind in New Zealand, THL faced unchartered territory for registration, health and safety, insurance, and battery range.
For example, the project faced delays because the New Zealand Transport Agency did not have a process for the certification of electric campervans. With the necessary information and processes now readily available, THL have helped pave the way for electric campervan use on New Zealand roads.
Saskia also says the team learnt that “you have to be prepared to travel a bit differently to make the EV work” which some people can find difficult to accept initially.
Find out more
Thinkstep Motorhome Showdown Video(external link) (results coming soon)
Who else could do this?
- Tourism operators