Electric vehicles have slashed almost 50 tonnes of greenhouse gas production from Northland Regional Council's carbon footprint.
"They're great news for council – reducing our carbon footprint, providing significant operational savings and influencing others to also get on board too," Joe Camuso, Northland Regional Council (NRC) EV specialist and 2019 New Zealand EV champion of the year said.
Northland Regional Council (NRC) has 10 electric vehicles, among the biggest number, on a per capita basis, of any council in New Zealand.
"We'll likely be full electric in our fleet pool cars within the next 10 years," Camuso said.
The council is playing a lead role among New Zealand councils getting more EVs into their fleets in the face of growing international climate change concern.
It's working closely with Northland's three district councils as they too move into electric vehicles, with bulk EV purchasing among its efforts.
Camuso said there was strong interest in EVs among the region's councils.
There are 17 EVs in Northland council fleets – NRC's 10 along with seven at Whangarei District Council (WDC). This regional number will soon expand to 20. Far North District Council (FNDC) is also currently buying its first three EVs.
Whangarei District Council Mayor Sheryl Mai is the first Northland local government leader to have an electric mayoral car. She began with a hybrid EV six years ago, shortly after getting elected and late last year shifted to a fully electric, 450 kilometre-range Mayoral vehicle.
"When I first became Mayor, it was my ambition to have an electric vehicle (as Mayoral car)," Sheryl Mai said.
"It's about having a leadership role."
Northland local government leader – and Kaipara District Council (KDC) Mayor Jason Smith will soon become the second of his four regional peers to have an electric vehicle. The Northland Mayoral Forum chair will take delivery of KDC's first hybrid electric mayoral car before the end of the month.
The North's councils have worked closely together to build a network of fast chargers in the region, funding from New Zealand's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) contributing $600,000 to the Crimson Coast Highway EV charging network. The last of this network's chargers was put in at the end of 2019.
"Now this network's in place and we have longer-range EV technology available, we'll likely see increasing use of EVs by our Northland councils," Camuso said.
NRC has saved $44,000 in petrol use costs since it bought its first EV in 2013. Its EVs have travelled 280,000 kilometres since that first vehicle was purchased.
WDC councillor Anna Murphy and Ngunguru resident said she looks forward to more electric vehicles in the council's pool fleet.
She has been driving an EV for four years, soon after getting elected in 2016. Reasons for going to an EV included reducing her carbon footprint, cutting out the production of the tiny PM10 micropollutants produced from petrol fuel exhaust and saving about $5000 annually in petrol costs.
Camuso said electric vehicles made economic sense for councils and in turn ratepayers.
An EV cost more up front than a conventional petrol vehicle. But NRC viewed EV ownership on a "total cost of ownership" basis. This was the cost over the vehicle's life – its purchase price, in combination with fuel and tyre replacement costs. An electric vehicle was cheaper on this basis than a conventionally-fuelled car.
Councils typically owned a fleet pool vehicle for 1000,000 kilometres. They saved more than $15,000 on fuel over that time with an EV and there was a lot less running cost involved.
NRC's now seven years of EV use has significantly influenced its staff - a dozen have bought EVs to use as their personal car because of using them at work.
William Taylor, FNDC general manager corporate services said his council was "deeply committed" to decarbonising its vehicle fleet as part of taking all reasonable and cost-effective steps to reduce its carbon footprint.
Establishing the Far North's local charging station network through the Crimson Coast Highway had been an important first step in this.
"The next step is acquiring suitable electric vehicles to replace our existing fleet when each existing vehicle's life span is complete," Taylor said.
"Advances in EV technology have been rapid and vehicles emerging recently on the market offer better options for council. This emerging EV technology, combined with our recently completed charging network, means previous barriers have been removed. EVs are now a much more viable option for the council to pursue," Taylor said.
"There is significant research supporting the view that electric/hybrid vehicles are more cost-effective than conventional ones."
He said one challenge common to all rural councils was obtaining long-range SUV-type vehicles cost-effectively.
Eddie Wotherspoon, WDC manager-business support, said his council was pro electric vehicles. WDC is currently updating its vehicle fleet policy in favour of this position.
"We are committed to moving towards a full electric/plug-in fleet to reduce our emissions and fuel usage," Wotherspoon said.
Gillian Bruce, KDC communications and engagement manager said her council's electric vehicle consideration, as part of being climate-smart, would need to consider the district's size, higher purchase costs and charging station availability outside main townships.
Northland councils between them have 246 fleet vehicles – 17 of them EVs. NRC has 64 fleet vehicles including 10 EVs (seven electric/three plug-in hybrid). Whangarei District Council (WDC) has 58 fleet vehicles - seven of them EVs (four electric/three plug-in hybrids). Far North District Council (FNDC) has 73 fleet vehicles and is currently buying its first three EVs. Kaipara District Council (KDC) has 32 fleet vehicles, none of which are EVs.
Craig Salmon, Paihia EV advocate, said any reduction in Northland councils' vehicle emissions through having electric vehicles was a good thing.
Salmon would like to see at least three quarters of Northland councils' vehicle fleet as plug-in electric vehicles by 2025.
Footnote: To check out the region's charging station network visit https://www.plugshare.com/ Orange icons are fast chargers, green icons are slower chargers and any grey icons show charging stations currently in use.
For more about electric vehicles https://www.energywise.govt.nz/on-the-road/electric-vehicles/