Truck a big player in meeting ambitious carbon-reduction target
Textile rental service provider Alsco NZ added an electric freighter to its fleet – a New Zealand first. It travels 286km a day and is seeking to prove that electric heavy freight is not only possible but good for profitability as well. The project received co-funding from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.
About the journey
Alsco NZ provide textile rental services using a fleet of over 350 vehicles nationwide. The company has four key sustainability goals, which include converting one third of this fleet to electric by 2030.
Gavin Smith, Business and Product Development Manager, says this means taking proactive action now, rather than waiting until later when vehicles need replacing.
Alsco’s 15 diesel heavy freighters account for a third of the company’s entire fleet fuel use. With this in mind, Alsco decided to push the boundaries and trial an electric heavy freighter – the first of its kind in New Zealand.
Success with an EV freighter wouldn’t just put Alsco at the front-end of technology – it would give them the confidence to invest in more in the future, ultimately helping reach the company’s sustainability goals.
The team at Alsco did their research to make sure an EV freighter was the right course of action. “We wanted to come up with not only a strong planet initiative, but one that also delivered a more immediate business case,” says Alsco Group General Manager, Mark Roberts. “The more we started to investigate the possibilities, the more the business case began to make sense. The heavy EV freighter seemed to provide an enticing financial case right from the outset.”
As this was the first intercity heavy EV freighter in New Zealand, Alsco had to find knowledgeable suppliers they knew could help them out. Alsco worked closely with SEA Electric NZ and Action Manufacturing in Hamilton to build a specialised EV freighter – a SEA-Drive 180 electric powertrain fitted into a Hino GH1828 glider chassis.
The EV freighter’s 200km range would only work on one of Alsco’s shorter daily heavy freight routes, which involves a return trip between Rotorua and Taupo each afternoon, then Rotorua and Tauranga in the evening. The route totals around 286km, approximately over 90km above the maximum range, so Alsco had to find a way to fit charging into their operations.
Alsco came up with some simple solutions – adding an hour to each trip for top-up charging at the Taupō and Tauranga depots, and possibly introducing a split shift with a three-hour break while the freighter charges before the second trip.
The freighter’s on-board charger is plugged into a 3-phase power source, which Alsco has installed at each site. Head Driver, Craig Christensen, is passionate about the new technology and was happy to adjust his working hours to get behind the trial.
Gavin says the freighter has performed well generally, comfortably moving up to 18 net tonnes each way. Craig is a big fan of the freighter too. Not only does it have no sound and no emissions, he says the EV freighter is “making life easier in my job… I’m getting out of the day feeling more refreshed.”
Charging provided some challenges initially, with the on-board charger’s capacity requiring a much longer charging time than expected before the second return trip of the day. Working closely with SEA Electric, a second charger was installed on the truck to double capacity. This did require significant engineering and software modifications that took a considerable amount of time, and also engagement with TransNet NZ to double up the Wallbox intelligent charging systems at each site.
While not yet fully operational, Gavin says Alsco’s EV freighter numbers “will convince even the most hard-bitten number crunchers out there.” With the EECA project co-funding, the electric version financially overtakes the diesel freighter equivalent in as little as five months, according to Finance General Manager, Vanessa Atadeniz.
“For businesses that want to reduce emissions but have financial reservations, our conservative modelling indicates that even with no EECA co-funding, and inclusive of current road user charges, this heavy EV recovers the additional capital spend within the Alsco normal 8 year depreciation cycle.”
When fully operational, Alsco estimate that the EV freighter will reduce diesel use by 25,000 litres per year and cut carbon emissions by 67 tonnes annually – the equivalent of all of Alsco Rotorua’s emissions from electricity use in 2018.
The freighter is also predicted to halve diesel, road user charges and maintenance costs, with the model producing savings of $49,740 annually. Gavin predicts that maintenance costs will work out even cheaper than modelled. For example, the EV freighter’s regenerative braking system means that the brake pads are expected to last up to ten times longer than the diesel equivalent, saving a significant ongoing cost for Alsco.
The company is also investigating other electric options. Alsco has three SEA E4V electric vans now operating in Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington, and hopes to find an electric solution for the traditional walk-through delivery vehicle. These smaller diesel trucks predominantly travel less than 100km per day with multiple stops in busy urban locations, making them the perfect candidates for an electric equivalent. Alsco has around 150 vehicles of this type and believe that, in the long term, their electrification would make the most significant impact in reaching the goal of electric vehicles exceeding one third of the company fleet by 2030.
Thanks to the EV freighter, Alsco is being noticed. The freighter was launched at Eden Park on 27th November 2019. The event was attended by the Ministers for Energy & Resources and Climate Change and resulted in excellent media coverage.
Scope of the project
|Item||Cost per unit||Quantity||Total|
|Purchase of freighter framework||$200,000||1||$200,000|
|Freighter body build||$77,000||1||$77,000|
|Total project cost||$277,000|
The project kicked off in late December 2018, with the electric freighter hitting the road just under a year later in November 2019. Changes, refinements, and testing are ongoing.
SEA-Electric (NZ) and Action Manufacturing Hamilton worked together to build the EV freighter. Brave Design completed the signwriting, Instep provided the emission factor used to estimate potential EV savings, and TransNet is providing data to help Alsco analyse the freighter’s cost effectiveness.
- Push the boundaries. Find ways to make EVs fit into your operations, even if it means making small changes to the way you do things.
- Explore your options and test out vehicles. Engage with different suppliers and organisations and test vehicles if you can – specialist knowledge and practical insights can help you make the right choice.
- Record data to measure the results of your EV. Comparisons using data over a trial period can help you analyse important things like cost effectiveness and carbon emission reductions.
Who else could do this?
- Freight, transport and delivery services