Asthma New Zealand replaced their petrol fleet with 8 electric cars. Getting rid of emissions from petrol vehicles aligned with its strategic vision, cut running costs and helped increase the number of patients that staff can educate. The project received co-funding from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund (now the Low Emission Transport Fund).
- Asthma NZ purchased eight second-hand Nissan Leafs to replace petrol vehicles.
- The cars are used by mobile nurses, who educate over 3,000 people every year at homes, schools, workplaces and in the community.
- Wall chargers were installed at three office locations.
- Mobile nurses spent time with EV dealers, GVI, to get familiar with the cars.
- Asthma NZ expects to reduce carbon emissions by 12 tonnes by electrifying their small fleet.
About the journey
Asthma NZ is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free asthma education services to help New Zealanders with asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) to live well.
Their mobile nurses educate over 3,000 people every year at homes, schools, workplaces and in the community. To help people effectively manage asthma, the nurses explain the triggers and ways to minimise them. With vehicle emissions being one of these triggers, their use of petrol cars for community visits didn’t sit well with Asthma NZ.
Chief Executive, Katheren Leitner, says Asthma NZ went electric “because there really was no decision to be made. Our mission is to reduce hospitalisation by 50%, our vision is around helping New Zealand breathe easy – and so it made absolute sense. It’s congruent with what we stand for.”
Making the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) was the perfect opportunity for Asthma NZ to remove petrol emissions from their visits and reduce their running costs, ultimately helping them in their goal of educating more patients.
Following advice from Genuine Vehicle Imports (GVI) Electric, Asthma NZ purchased 8 used Nissan Leafs. These replaced the existing petrol fleet of 6 cars in Auckland and 1 at each of the Rotorua and Wellington offices. Katheren says that opting for used vehicles was not only the more sustainable option – it helped keep purchase costs down too.
The team at GVI matched Asthma NZ with the right vehicles for the job. By looking at the kilometres travelled in the existing petrol fleet, Asthma NZ could see that the 150km range of the 24kWh Leaf would be suitable for most of the nurses’ visits. To accommodate those who cover wider areas, Asthma NZ also purchased two 30kWh Leafs, which can travel up to 200km.
To make charging easy for the team, a wall charger was installed at each of Asthma NZ’s Rotorua and Wellington sites and two at the Auckland office. Electrical assessments were completed at each site to make sure the electrical supply was sufficient and the set-up would be safe.
Asthma NZ also had electrical safety assessments and wiring upgrades performed at the nurses’ homes, providing peace of mind for overnight charging and avoiding potential issues down the track.
Making the switch to electric as smooth as possible for staff was important to Katheren. She was one of the first to trial the EVs, so her first-hand experience could help her to answer questions from her team.
Katheren organised for each of the nurses to spend some time at GVI with one of their EV experts. The nurses were able to get familiar with an EV, go for a test drive, learn how to charge, and ask any questions they had.
Asthma NZ Nurse Manager, Ann Wheat, says this session was really helpful for her. "Prior training and understanding is really important – you really must have a good lesson."
A couple of months after all 8 Leafs were in use, the nurses reported they were loving them. "They have learned to plan their days around when and where their visits will take them, and where the charging options are along the way," says Katheren.
"Even those who were apprehensive have adjusted quickly. A number of the nurses are older and are quite new to EV technology – they have all jumped on board, saying 'if we can do it, anyone can'."
Ann says she was very nervous at first. "I had a bit of a fear of electricity from a bad past experience at home, so I really wasn’t sure about it." However, it didn’t take long for her to adjust. "I enjoy driving my EV – it’s a lovely car and it really is easy to drive. I just love how quiet it is and was surprised by the fast acceleration."
Nurse Educator, Amanda Vercoe, agrees. "I was a little anxious about the unknown. My first trip was from Auckland to Rotorua, so I was worried about the acceleration on the open road and knew I would need to find somewhere to charge." Using the knowledge from her lesson and an app with charging locations, Amanda was able to make the journey without any hiccups and even says “the acceleration is better than my old car!"
Based on the mileage from the previous year, Asthma NZ expect to reduce CO2 emissions by 12,000kg. As Katheren points out, on its own this will not make a significant difference to overall levels of CO2 emissions. However, if even 10% of charities followed suit a collective reduction of 33,600,000kg could be achieved in 12 months.
Katheren says the EVs have allowed access to a new realm of audiences for Asthma NZ to get their message out. The team have been approached by a range of media to share their story and have received a lot of interest from the community about the EVs, with patients and members of the public frequently asking the nurses about them.
They were able to relocate two Lunic Chargers from two nurses who retired at the end of 2020 into the new Nurses homes. Three nurses who started early 2020 had a one-hour introduction to the vehicle and felt more than comfortable to head off on their way. One of these Nurses is now looking to replace their family car with an EV, she and her husband have been so impressed by the vehicle.
Overall, Asthma NZ's use of second hand Leafs has shown that EVs are not only great for the environment, but affordable, cost effective and suitable for use in non-governmental and health organisations.
Asthma NZ have a Diesel Mobile unit that they plan to convert to electric. When asked why they wouldn’t just buy a new electric vehicle, Katheren explains that structurally there is absolutely nothing wrong with the mobile unit – "it has been kitted out to meet our needs, so throwing it out and getting a new one would just create unnecessary waste."
Asthma NZ's transition into electric vehicles comes with absolutely no regrets.
"For many reasons this has been an important decision; we continue to push the message regards carbon emissions and the need to protect the quality of air we breathe. With a global respiratory pandemic paralysing countries and their communities for months on end we have learnt two things: our lungs are critical to our wellbeing and survival, the quality of air we breathe gets so much better even in a matter of weeks when there are very few fossil fuelled vehicles on the road. Based on the number of kilometres travelled from 1 August 2020 to 31 July we have avoided 21.33 tonnes of carbon emissions."
Between 1 Aug 2020 and 31 July 2021, Asthma NZ spent $2,604 total on charging, NZ Transport licence renewals, WOF and maintenance service.
These are the EV vehicle expenses for the period 1 Aug 2020 to 31 July 2021:
|$760||NZ Transport licence renewals|
|$1364||WOF, tyres & service|
Scope of the project
Cost per unit
|Vehicles||Used Nissan Leaf 24kWh (2015-2016 models)||$23,500||6||$141,000|
|Used Nissan Leaf 30kWh (2015-2016 models)||$30,300||2||$60,000|
|Charging infrastructure||Purchase of ABB EV Lunic-Pro wall chargers||$2,422||11||$26,642|
|Site assessment and charger installation||$1,300||11||$14,300|
|Upgrades and socket installations||$1,931||11||$21,241|
|Other costs||Project management and events||$13,500|
Asthma NZ’s fleet replacement project kicked off in August 2019. Four of the Leafs were supplied before the end of December, chargers were installed in January and February 2020, and the last two Leafs arrived in the middle of February 2020.
Katheren says that insights from Genuine Vehicle Imports (GVI) Auckland were “critical to the project.” GVI helped Asthma NZ decide which size battery would best suit their needs, knew which issues Asthma NZ could face, and “recommended only what was needed” to help limit costs.
ABB Limited and Singer Electrical in Auckland provided the auditing, supply, installation and commissioning of charging infrastructure. Katheren says they “could not have asked for better partners to go down this journey with. ABB and Singer made it so seamless. They took the worry away from us, let us learn the technology and they took care of everything else for us.”
- Don’t assume you need a new electric vehicle. Used electric vehicles might perfectly suit your organisation’s needs, are more affordable than buying new, and are available now. The key is to understand what you actually need.
- Find a knowledgeable supplier. Some up-front analysis by a knowledgeable supplier can match the right vehicle to your needs, and potentially help you save on both vehicle purchase costs and charging equipment needed.
- Have a staff member trial an EV before rolling them out across your organisation. Nothing beats first-hand experience, and sharing their learnings on driving an EV and challenges will reassure other staff and persuade them to give it a go.
- Ensure your charging set-up is safe. Get professionals to assess your site’s electrical set up and supply and upgrade it if necessary. This can avoid safety issues and unexpected costs down the road.
- Find senior-level support for your project. This can help get your EV project off the ground, keep it on track, and drive its success.
- Use apps to help staff find charging stations. Asthma NZ’s EV drivers have found that phone apps have been a helpful and convenient way to find public chargers in the areas they travel to.
Who else could do this?
- Small and medium enterprises
- Community groups, non-profit organisations, Iwi
- Retirement villages
- City Councils
- Tourism groups
- Client service organisations (sales, technical support staff)