Two new zero-emission heavy vehicles have joined the New Zealand fleet this week. Fonterra and NZ Post announced their new arrivals that will be used to cut their operating emissions. The Fonterra Milk-E Tanker is a fully electric truck that will be collecting milk from farmers in the Waikato. The NZ Post XCIENT hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric truck by Hyundai is the first of its kind in the country and will be out delivering parcels around the North Island.
Both of these significant Kiwi businesses are committed to making a conscious effort to improve their sustainability. Their adoption of these new technologies allows them to learn and share their experience with others to greater reduce the emissions of the country as a whole. EECA Group Manager Investment and Engagement, Nicki Sutherland, said about the Fonterra Milk-E project, “New Zealand has ambitious targets to rapidly reduce carbon emissions, and transport is key, but heavy freight has proven hard to decarbonise. If successful, this project could be replicated across a number of New Zealand businesses.”
The Milk-E will be based at the Fonterra Waitoa site in the Waikato, which COO Fraser Whineray says is very fitting given it was the site of New Zealand’s largest fleet of electric milk trucks 100 years ago. Waitoa also has lots of close supplying farms on relatively flat land, so Fonterra is able to do shorter runs where they can reduce battery consumption with fewer hills.
The tanker has had some changes to the battery configuration which has allowed the team to trial other additions to improve milk collection efficiencies, reduce safety concerns, and reduce the amount of work required to customise a Fonterra tanker. A battery swap system is being installed at the Waitoa site to trial how this could work within a fleet to minimise downtime from battery charging.
NZ Post has taken an alternative approach to reduce its heavy vehicle emissions by choosing to adopt a hydrogen-powered truck. Of course, like electric vehicles, infrastructure is only just being established for this zero-emissions option too. However, high-capacity hydrogen refuelling stations are on their way, such as Hiringa Energy’s four North Island stations coming online in early 2023. Until these first commercial refuelling stations are built, the truck will be fuelled using green hydrogen supplied by BOC. Once the commercial infrastructure is in place next year, this truck's ideal first operational route is likely to be Auckland – Hamilton – Auckland – Whangarei.
Both trucks will be in a trial period for the next year or so as they test their application to commercial use. It will of course take a lot of adjustment in processes and further planning of routes to factor in refuelling in a different way to their diesel counterparts. Although, it is exciting to see these technologies being adopted by such large businesses that are leading by example in the sustainable transport space.
We hope to see greater adoption of zero-emission vehicles for heavy transport as the technology also improves. The goal is that businesses will make zero-emission options their first choice rather than diesel.