Kiwi electric vehicle owners are being recruited for a world-first project aimed at boosting uptake and busting some of the misconceptions around EVs.

The just-launched Flip The Fleet project tasks EV owners as citizen scientists, sharing detailed information to build a better picture of how the vehicles are performing.

"You can think of it as a Fitbit for EVs," said organiser Emeritus Professor Henrik Moller, who wants to collect scientific data more on EVs to dispel myths that surround them.

"We need to make sure people aren't exaggerating the benefits, but we also need to counter the vested interests that are dissing them unfairly."


The project sprung from a Facebook discussion among EV owners, and took shape with business benchmarking software designed by Dima Ivanov of Auckland-based firm PowerStats.

After more than 100 EV owners agreed to test-drive the system, Moller and Ivanov launched Flip the Fleet to the public last week.

At the beginning of each month, participants receive emails reminding them to upload mileage, charging patterns, the last trip taken and other data gleaned from their vehicle's odometer.

"But these EVs are so smart that they've got a lot of other data stored, such as the battery's health, and you're getting great measures of efficiency of travel."

After putting the data in, users are benchmarked against others and can also see how their vehicle is tracking through time.

"You can see what your mileage is, the dollars you've saved in petrol in maintenance, or what the percentage return on your investment or loan is."

It also gave handy snapshots of their EV's environmental impact, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions saved.

"We are expressing that in the proportion of emissions of a flight from Auckland to London, or how many virtual trees have been planted."


Moller, who was aiming to recruit more than 1000 EV owners, saw the drive as an opportunity to get fine-grained information that could be used to inform people and businesses of the practical benefits of EVs.

"The collective voice of early adopters will be heard by more people, but more generally, people make decisions about their next vehicle purchase based on a huge variety of criteria, following information and testimony of people they trust.

"This project is trying to empower the advocacy of an army of citizen scientists to help them make a better case for EVs when discussing them over the dinner table, or over than back fence with their neighbour, or with their business leaders in staff meetings.

"There is also great value in having real data from New Zealand and in our local neighbourhood."

EVs in New Zealand

• As at May 2017 there were an estimated 3576 electric vehicles in New Zealand, of which 918 were new light plug-in hybrids, 1611 were used light pure EVs and 840 were new pure EVs. This compared with a total fleet size of 186 in January 2013.

• There were 279 new registrations in May 2017, compared with 87, 29, 38 and two in the same month of the preceding years.

• The large majority (1862) were registered in Auckland, with 458 in Wellington, 384 in Canterbury and 192 in Otago.

*Pure EVs are now out-selling plug-in hybrids: 81 per cent of of EV registrations between January and May this year were pure EVs. The most popular make is the Nissan Leaf.

• At May 31, individuals (57 per cent) owned more light EVs than companies (30 per cent). Companies owned a greater share of plug-in hybrids (48 per cent) than pure electrics (22 per cent).

Source: Ministry of Transport