Electric shuttle buses a boost for ecosanctuary’s brand

Inner-city ecosanctuary ZEALANDIA introduced two fully electric passenger shuttle vans to transport their visitors between the city centre and sanctuary, cutting carbon emissions and showcasing the suitability of electric vehicles in the tourism industry. The project received co-funding from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.

About the journey

ZEALANDIA is a certified carbon-zero ecosanctuary in the heart of Wellington that attracts over 130,000 visitors each year. Almost 25,000 of these visitors use the free shuttle service they offer between the city centre and the sanctuary, which clocks up 40,000km per year.

ZEALANDIA strive to minimise their carbon footprint, with a long-term goal of becoming emissions-free.
Using a diesel-fuelled van for this service didn’t sit well with this vision, so finding a sustainable alternative was important.

For ZEALANDIA’s Chief Executive Paul Atkins, zero-emission electric shuttles “just made sense.” Not only would they reduce the sanctuary’s carbon footprint, but it would provide an opportunity to showcase the suitability of EVs to other businesses and the public.

ZEALANDIA replaced their existing diesel shuttle with two LDV e80 electric vans with a 54kW battery with a range of 220km – perfect for the daily round trips. The LDV e80 has a smaller seating capacity of 8 passengers, compared to the diesel van which fit 13, so the call was made to opt for two electric vans to keep up during the busy periods. Making the switch to electric was important to ZEALANDIA, so they were happy to make some changes to the way they operate.

Once the electric vans arrived, ZEALANDIA had seats installed in the back, making them the first electric vans to be used for passenger transportation in New Zealand. With driver training not offered by the supplier of the electric shuttles, staff learnt on the job to become confident with the new technology.

A 22kW Delta charger was installed in the carpark in partnership with Meridian and a promotional EV display was set up in the visitor centre, all ready for the shuttles to get to work.


Chris Fitzgerald, ZEALANDIA’s Commercial Development Manager, says that almost a year after they hit the road, the shuttles had carried over 30,000 passengers and travelled over 31,000 kilometres.

A diesel van is still put to use during peak periods where more than 2 vans are required. The drivers much prefer the EVs though – even one of ZEALANDIA’s older drivers who was initially resistant to the new technology.

As hoped, the electric vans were a great move for ZEALANDIA’s goal of becoming emissions-free – the EVs are cutting their annual carbon emissions by an estimated 19%, or almost 18 tonnes.

Visitors have shown real interest in the vans and Chief Executive, Paul Atkins, says ZEALANDIA is able to use these shuttles as another way to educate and inform visitors to the sanctuary on how sustainable practise is intertwined with conserving the natural world.

ZEALANDIA have since installed more charging stations at the sanctuary, with a total of ten now available for public use. They also have recently purchases and electric Polaris Ranger EV Side by Side for use in the valley as a substitute for the quad bikes, and are actively exploring other projects including electric commercial power tools and solar panels.

Scope of the project

Cost breakdown

Category Item Cost per unit Quantity Total
Vehicles LDV E80 electric minivan $70,000    2 $140,000
  Fit-out $17,000    2 $34,000
  Signwriting $10,000    2 $20,000
Charging Infrastructure Delta 22kW charger purchase and installation $30,000    1 $30,000
Other Costs Promotional display $12,500    1 $12,500
Grand Total       $235,500
EECA Co-funding       $117,750


ZEALANDIA’s electric shuttle project kicked off in February 2018 when an order was placed for the LDV E80s. The new electric arrived and were fitted out in late September, hitting the road later in October.


The LDV electric vans were purchased from Great Lake Motor Distributors Limited in Takini Auckland. Jackson Van Interiors added the seats, YHI Limited in Auckland supplied the chargers, and Henry Services Limited in Wellington installed them.

Lessons for others

The certification process for the van was more challenging than ZEALANDIA expected. It was the first licensing of this type of vehicle for this purpose in New Zealand, so ZEALANDIA had to source additional information from the vehicle manufacturer.

Structural adjustments had to be made to the electric vans as the weight of the batteries placed the vehicle into a different licensing category than the usual diesel van. Strengthening was also required in the passenger areas, including a roll cage. The “modified” classification then significantly increased insurance costs.

The smaller passenger capacity of the e-vans also created extra operational expenses for ZEALANDIA. The two e-vans have to be used more often to fit larger groups, which requires two driver salaries instead of one. However, savings were made by the reduced fuel cost and ultimately switching to electric was the priority for ZEALANDIA.


  • Explore external funding options. ZEALANDIA was able to source co-funding from EECA and Meridian which covered the entire project cost.
  • When introducing a new technology, be generous when making timeline estimations. The final project was delayed by nearly six months due to changes in battery technologies (that lengthened the life of the battery to 220km per charge) and the licensing of the vehicles under a new weight class.
  • Review your site power supply. A site assessment confirmed that ZEALANDIA’s power supply was adequate, but the cost of upgrading is something businesses might need to take into account.
  • Be aware that there are few suppliers of electric vans in New Zealand. Factor this into your plan and do your research to find suppliers.
  • Source driver training if it is available. ZEALANDIA’s drivers were self-taught and commented that it would have easier with some professional training.


Find out more

Video on Zealandia's shuttles – Hutt Valley LDV(external link) 

Who else could do this?

  • Community groups, non-profit organisations, Iwi
  • Retirement villages
  • City Councils
  • Tourism
  • Client service organisations (sales, technical support staff)
  • Light fleets

Low Emission Transport Fund

Electric Vehicles for businesses(external link)