The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face, and we need to get moving on action now.

New Zealand has some of the lowest carbon electricity generation in the world. More than 80 per cent of generated power comes from non-fossil fuel sources, like hydro, geothermal and wind.

That energy mix makes our country an ideal place to introduce electric vehicles and bring down our carbon emissions.

And given that transportation accounts for 17 per cent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, moving to electric vehicles is a great opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint.

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That's why we, at Westpac NZ, welcome an announcement by the Government that it is beginning consultation on policies that will help reduce the emissions of the light vehicle fleet.

This has the potential to help bring down the barriers that have prohibited widespread uptake of low emission vehicles, and in particular, electric vehicles.

The challenge lies in making electric vehicles an easy choice for all of us, not just enthusiasts, the wealthy and those wanting to think outside the box.

Many mum-and-dad buyers and small businesses will be naturally reluctant to take a leap of faith on an electric car until there is a good range of vehicles, competitive pricing and an established charging network.

Fortunately, many New Zealand companies, including Westpac, are taking the lead in bringing more and more electric vehicles to our streets.

We're one of 30 companies committed to converting at least 30 per cent of our fleets to electric power by the end of this year.

For us, that means running 97 electric vehicles by the year's end. So far, we have 75 and counting.

Our transition to EVs is part of a wider Westpac NZ commitment to reduce our emissions by 25 per cent between 2016 and 2020. This is on top of a 51 per cent company-wide reduction since 2008.

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Leanne Lazarus, Westpac NZ General Manager of Operations & Contact Centre. Photo / Supplied
Leanne Lazarus, Westpac NZ General Manager of Operations & Contact Centre. Photo / Supplied

Not only does the initiative provide a visible example and confidence to private buyers, it also means there will be a significant range of well-maintained, New Zealand-new electric vehicles available on the second-hand market in the next few years once company leases finish.

Coupled with a likely increase in the number and type of new vehicles available, New Zealanders will have a wide range of buying options available to them.

By the end of this year, 36 per cent of our electric fleet will be Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), which run exclusively on electricity through batteries that are charged by plugging the vehicle into an outlet or charging station.

These cars are suitable for roles like mobile mortgage managers, who make short, frequent trips around our branch network.

The remaining 64 per cent of our electric fleet will be Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), which use a combination of battery and petrol to run the car. PHEVs use the battery first, then switch seamlessly to petrol when the battery has no charge left.

These vehicles are useful for employees who cover long distances in remote areas to visit customers.

Use of the BEVs should reduce our carbon emissions by four tonnes a year per vehicle and we're still analysing the environmental benefits of the PHEVs.

For Westpac NZ, converting our fleet has had some challenges, principally around the introduction of about 80 chargers on our premises, and the change in mindset needed for those who have gone from refuelling to recharging.

If I had three top pieces of advice for businesses wanting to join the electric revolution they would be:

1. Analyse in detail how your current fleet of petrol or diesel vehicles is being used so you can work out what type of electric vehicles will be the most effective replacements.

2. Once you've tested and chosen your preferred EVs, try to lease or buy the vehicles in bulk. This simplifies sign-off with stakeholders, reduces repetition in internal processes and will be more cost effective than ordering vehicles in ones and twos.

3. Make sure you understand the charging requirements of the fleet and ensure your drivers have access to enough charging stations.

Of course, there are many other considerations and questions that arise when thinking about purchasing electric vehicles.

That's why we have created a case-study on our introduction of electric vehicles to help other businesses learn more about our experience. You can find it here.

Good luck with your electric journey. We hope you find the process as rewarding as we have at Westpac NZ.

- Leanne Lazarus, Westpac NZ General Manager of Operations & Contact Centre.