TRANSPORT – How to buy an electric vehicle for your business.

12 Jul 2016

We have all heard about electric vehicles. There’s a lot about them to like. Here’s how to work out if they are right for your business and get your hands on a good one.

The Sustainable Business Network is active on EVs as part of its Smart Transport Project. This is helping to increase the take up of electric vehicles in New Zealand by an extra 1,000 by 2017.

Project lead Phil Jones says: "All businesses can play a role today in shifting to a smarter, low carbon transport system. You can add an electric vehicle to the company fleet. You can choose fuel providers that offer biofuel blends. You can encourage staff to commute by public transport, cycling, or by car-pooling.  And, it's not just the act itself. Letting your clients, customers and other stakeholders know about the action you've taken is great for the brand."

Let’s look at what to consider in looking at buying EVs. 

Cost effectiveness

EVs can charge overnight using a standard domestic power socket, or from half an hour to fours hours with the fast chargers increasingly being installed at service stations, businesses and car parks around New Zealand. This ‘fuel’ cost is the equivalent to 30 cents a litre.

EV owners are currently exempt from road user charges. This is a saving of $700 a year. The New Zealand government has indicated it might consider further exemptions and grants. Look out for the announcements. In Norway EV owners pay no registration fees. They pay no road tolls. They are exempt from any sales tax on buying the vehicle. The government even provides EV owners with an annual tax deduction if they use it for work.

EVs have far fewer moving and breakable parts than combustion engines. Think about it, electric motors spin on channelled electricity, combustion engines contain a continuous explosion. Electric vehicles have less heat and vibration to deal with. This all adds up to a great deal less need for maintenance. This further reduces running costs.

Mark Yates is director of SBN member Ecotricity and a passionate EV promoter. He estimates you can save up to 80% of vehicle running costs by going electric.

“There are only a handful of moving parts in an EV motor,” says Mark. “There is no gear box and regenerative brakes halve the wear on brake pads. I have owned a Nissan Leaf for five years and have saved over $10,000 on fuel and maintenance costs.”

Garry Woods from EV Imports says: “The wear and tear items on the running gear like brakes and tires are the same as a conventional car and can be maintained in exactly the same way. The electrical side of it can be checked by almost any mechanic with their normal electrical diagnostic equipment. The motor on something like the Nissan Leaf is now a sealed unit. There’s no need to change any oil and there aren’t any brushes to wear out. It’s basically an industrial-strength electric motor. So there’s really not a lot that needs to be done in terms of maintenance.”

Range

Most EVs can now cover at least 120km on a single overnight charge.

There are more charging stations appearing all over New Zealand. Most urban areas also have commercial rapid charging stations. This allows EVs to charge their batteries to 80% in 20 minutes. That’s about the time it takes to stop for a coffee. But it’s good to pick your moments. Chargers are still limited, so at peak times you might find someone else plugged in, leaving you to wait.

Garry explains: “It’s good to have chargers around in case you get caught out. But if you are just commuting you are unlikely to need them. You can charge at home. If you are a cab driver or something then that’s different. You see some firms with fleets of EVs setting up the mid-range chargers for the four hour charge.” 

Environmental impact  

Today's businesses must prove their commitment to tackling climate change and pollution. New Zealand's electricity mainly comes from renewable sources. Using EVs here cuts carbon emissions. As they have no exhaust, it also reduces air pollution.

It's a powerful public signal that your business cares about these issues and will take action.

Choice and affordability

It is possible to find an EV to suit almost any fleet. A lot of the public attention has gone to prestige cars like the Tesla. But there is now a growing range of affordable EVs in New Zealand. You can get everything from a small car to a truck. 

Used EVs from Japan are also beginning to land here in significant numbers. Second hand Nissan Leafs can now be bought from $17,000.

When choosing an EV check all the normal stuff you look for in a car. Some imports will have cosmetic damage that gets fixed up so as not to show their age. In addition, you should consider the age of the battery. We are just reaching the point where the batteries in some of the first generation of electric vehicles will be fading. You should check how many kilometres the vehicle has done. If possible also get the battery checked to see how it is holding a charge. There is no market to replace batteries at the moment, but this will expand as the cars age and demand for this grows.

Garry says: “To give you an indication Nissan now give an eight year warranty that their new batteries will hold a charge of at least 80%. If they warranty that, then they are likely to last longer. There are only a few EVs in the country that are old enough yet to have any issue, and it should be possible to test and replace batteries soon.”

Safety

EVs are very safe. Smaller engines leave more room for air bags and crumple zones. This means they tend to have high international safety ratings.

Selecting the right vehicle

SBN member businesses offer comprehensive help in buying EVs.

EV Imports selects top quality low-kilometre EVs from a supplier it has worked with for more than a 13 years. They then match these with the customer’s requirements.

Ecotricity has a handy online New Zealand Buyers Guide. It has also created an online calculator to help you work out what you could save by making the switch.

Mark from Ecotricity says: “Just like any other car, your choice will depend on your requirements. 

“Say you have a second car you use primarily around town. Most of your daily trips are less than 100km. The Nissan Leaf is the perfect car for you.

“Need a 4-wheel-drive to pull a trailer and do long trips? The Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is the one for you. 

“If you are looking for a replacement for the Mercedes then the Tesla Model S or Model 3. It’s better priced and has better acceleration than a fossil fuel car.”

Blue Cars offers rental and experience packages for you to try before you buy. Then there's professional vehicle management and leasing companies like Yoogo. They can assist with transitioning your fleet and lease vehicles to EVs.

Get in touch with them today to get your business on the road to smarter transport. Or contact phil@sustainable.org.nz to find out more about this project and how your business can get involved.

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SBN is working with businesses in four transformation areas.
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