Accelerating Smart Transport in New Zealand

Addressing one of the toughest challenges in Renewable Energy: smart transport.

Our Context

New Zealand currently holds one of the leading positions globally in renewable energy sources for electricity use. However in the efforts to move towards sourcing all our energy from renewable sources, one of our biggest challenges is transport. Almost all the energy sourced to power our national fleet is non-renewable. The current situation has us exposed not only to the environmental risks associated with greenhouse gases and climate change, but also the security of our energy supply and dependency as a nation on the global energy markets.

Potential solutions identified over 2013/14

The shift to Smart Transport alternatives is already underway. Nationally a range of pioneering transport options exist which may have the potential for scale, replication and mass promotion. Growing business opportunities exist in capitalising on emerging technology, integration with home energy systems, and better utilisation of the national fleet.

Early in 2014 SBN interviewed transport industry experts across New Zealand. Six themes emerged as focus areas for transport solutions beyond fossil fuels. We explored these themes further in a series of Big Think events around the country where we developed a deeper understanding of the associated challenges and innovations. As of late 2014 our members have joined coalitions to progress this work. click here to see our projects.  The following outlines these themes, with a series of commercial opportunities for each.


Focus areas
  1. Adopting electric vehicles and biofuels

It seems the dominant expectation is that electric vehicles and biofuels will be the technology that will best leverage our natural resources, and provide the most feasible options to power the New Zealand fleet in the near future. There has been a lot of activity recently in both these areas. For example, the $30,000 drop in price of the Nissan Leaf has put electric vehicles within the range of consideration of fleet managers around the country. Similarly, public moves by Z Energy in its commitment to biofuel production has put it on the radar with Gull for those companies interested in the huge emission reductions possible with these fuel types.

Opportunities include:

  • Corporate fleet models: in collaboration with a set of companies create models of electric vehicle or biofuel integrated corporate fleets.
  • Station electric vehicle fleets: using a platform for easy payment, create an electric vehicle fleet that people can take home or use to travel to meetings from train stations.
  • Open power grid: create a website platform and a set-up pack to enable consumers to offer their driveways for electric vehicle charging stations and be paid a flat fee for use.
  • Model smart home: build a demonstration home with the technology of the future, showing how electric vehicles integrate with the home.


  1. Smart phones, homes and neighbourhoods

With more than two million Kiwis currently owning a smart phone, it is assumed that these devices will play much more of a central role in transport in the future. Apps like Uber in Auckland and Wellington show the potential of the phone in transport. Users can call a ride with the simple touch of a button. Homes and neighbourhoods are also being explored for their potential role in transport solutions, from the home as a charging point for electric vehicles, to models of sharing workspace in neighbourhoods to reduce the amount of trips we do.

Opportunities include:

  • Trip planning: develop or promote smartphone apps that use public transport data to help people plan their trips.
  • Local hub: create or retrofit office space as hubs for local business people to use instead of making the commute into town.
  • Local social network: create or strengthen local web-based social networks to connect locals around commuting, school trips and grocery trips.
  • Model smart home: create a demonstration home with the technology of the future, showing how it can connect people to work from home.


  1. Using public transport

There are a growing number of model cities around the world providing inspiration for the challenge of how to increase the use of public transport solutions, long held as an integral part of New Zealand’s transportation future. New York, Portland and Melbourne are a few that hold valuable lessons for consideration across New Zealand. Creative collaborations and council experiments are the theme here.

Opportunities include:

  • Free ride challenge: provide free access to public transport services for a day, with a challenge to incentivise people to experience it.
  • Innovation class: use LinkedIn as a platform to create connections between business mentors and those needing mentoring, using a train carriage as a meeting place.
  • Public transport rewards: create a rewards structure with partners like Flybuys to incentivise the increased use of public transport.
  • Station bike fleets: using a platform like the Auckland Transport HOP Card for easy payment, create a fleet of bikes people can use from bus stops and stations.


  1. Sharing vehicles

One of the big opportunity areas for emissions reduction across the country is the better use of the vehicles we already have on the road. There are a number of ventures working in this area including YourDrive, a ride share service, and which will help identify trucks travelling around New Zealand with empty loads available for use.

Opportunities include:

  • Share parked cars: create an online app to enable people to share their cars when they are parked at work, the airport, or around town.
  • Friend car sharing: using a social network platform, create challenges for friends and colleagues to share cars between themselves.
  • Use shipping containers: develop a set of services to utilise unused shipping containers for slow freight or product returns.
  • Find a truck: extend ‘Findatruckload’ to include smaller vehicles like vans, and integrate it with companies like New Zealand Post.


  1. Reducing vehicles on the road

While investment in infrastructure has a current emphasis on roading, there is significant interest around the country in the development of other transport modes. A balanced mix of transport infrastructure is needed for mature transport systems, so it is important that those with interests in active transport modes (such as walking and cycling) make the most of the current resources available. It seems that most of the conversations regarding active transport around the country are currently focused on bikes and cycling infrastructure, and there are a range of creative ventures already taking place.

Opportunities include:

  • Bike pools: develop a series of shared pools of bikes across cities where people donate their old bikes to be fixed and used.
  • Bike game: develop apps that motivate people to start and continue biking.
  • Public bikes: integrate bikes into the current transport modes that public transport payment cards give people access to.
  • Bike share systems: combine the learning from around New Zealand on how to build good bike sharing services.


If you’d like to find out more or be involved, contact Rachel Brown.