Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeNew ZealandPolice struggle to buy new utes as green mandate meets supply crisis

Police struggle to buy new utes as green mandate meets supply crisis

Police vehicle parked at Kiritehere Beach.

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Car companies have told NZ Police to hold off on buying more petrol and diesel utes.
Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

By Jonathan Milne* for Newsroom

Car companies have told NZ Police to hold off on buying more petrol and diesel utes, as they try to reduce sales of high-emitting vehicles.

Toyota has told NZ Police it will not supply them any more Hiluxes, as it is delivering fewer of the well-known utes while it awaits a more sustainable alternative.

Mitsubishi, too, has advised police that its new hybrid diesel Triton ute won’t be available until next year.

Police confirm they had approached Toyota, and other car companies, asking whether they could supply 50 new utes for operational purposes, replacing ageing Hilux and Holden Colorado vehicles.

Toyota NZ drove the Hilux to the top of the sales charts with adverts featuring Barry Crump, and the “bugger” dog, but it’s now grappling with the need to reduce sales of its highest-emitting petrol and diesel vehicles.

“I’ll go on the record here and say that we will deliver fewer Hiluxes until a more sustainable alternative is available,” chief executive Neeraj Lala said.

“We will deliver to customers or firms that really need a Hilux for a specific purpose. We have already been successful in converting large fleet owners to move their people from diesel utes to hybrid SUVs.”

He told Newsroom: “We chose not to respond to the RFP [from NZ Police] given the current supply constraints and needing to focus on existing loyal customers.”

But Police said electric vehicles were not yet viable for their more intensive or off-road needs. The demands of police work – search and rescue operations in weather extremes, for example – placed on their utility vehicles were too much for any hybrid or EV ute yet on the market.

Inspector Brian Yanko, in charge of fleet management, said police operational vehicles carried more heavy gear than a standard vehicle could handle.

Driving fast to respond to emergencies placed extra demand on a vehicle, and cars had to operate in changing weather conditions in more off-the-beaten track parts of New Zealand.

“In those very big weather and flooding events, we have to make sure our vehicles have the capability and the capacity to be able to to deal with service,” Yanko told Newsroom.

“We need utes that have high ride, that can carry the capacity, and that can carry the weight.

“If we were to suffer, God forbid, another Christchurch or Kaikōura-type earthquake and it knocked out electrical infrastructure, we still have to be able to respond. We don’t want our fleet being incapacitated within 24 hours and start being grounded – we need to still be able to respond even in those circumstances.”

Police faced criticism when they announced the replacement of their petrol-fuelled Holden Commodores with new petrol-fuelled Czech-made Škodas. But they soon began trialling two hybrid Škodas as well, have 12 more on order.

Yanko revealed NZ Police will start trialling EVs next year. In no coincidence, Škoda announced it will bring its Enyaq iV electric SUV to market next year.

“I’m really conscious that we’ve had a bit of a slow start, but I think it’ll be a fast finish. It’ll just ramp up all of a sudden,” Yanko said.

“We are conscious the hybrid and EV market hasn’t caught up to utilities as yet.

“We’re aware that some of the brands are looking at introducing those vehicle models in the near future, so we’re really interested to see what’s coming over the horizon so that we can be looking for opportunities to decarbonise.”

Police use reduced the performance of traditional petrol or diesel vehicles by 27 to 30 percent, he said. With EVs they had tested in the past, doing equivalent driving and weight tests, the performance had been reduced by 50 to 60 percent.

“We’re looking for opportunities to decarbonise, not only with hybrids but with EVs. But we obviously have to do that quite carefully and make sure the vehicle is still fit for purpose, and we can still meet the demands of the job.”

Toyota is to announce a science-based emissions-reduction target in the coming week, Lala told the Building Nations infrastructure conference in Wellington, which would mean rapidly accelerating its decarbonisation. Its parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation, was presently committing to reduce its scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (those for company operations and energy use) by 68 percent by 2035. However it was far less ambitious about reducing its vehicles’ emissions once they drive off the lot (scope 3).

It promised to reduce scope 3 emissions for passenger light duty vehicles and light commercial vehicles by 33.3 percent per vehicle kilometre by 2030, and by 11.6 percent for medium and heavy freight trucks .

Toyota’s Prius and Corolla models have made it a market leader in hybrids, but it has been late to the party on EVs. The company has been hedging its bets on whether the future of EVs is lithium ion or solid-state batteries, and is presently investing in both.

“We are continuing to encourage our new and used vehicle customers to buy hybrid,” Lala said. “More than 30 percent of our new vehicle sales are now hybrid and our emission are dropping.”

Next year Toyota launches the BZ4X, its first fully electric SUV. “Powering these initiatives and electrification is just one piece of a complex mobility puzzle that needs to be at the foundation of our 2050 roadmap,” Lala said.

“The big question is, can power companies and our grid handle bulk charging in the middle of winter, even if we charge vehicles at off-peak times? Is there resiliency in the network to handle continuity if demand grows rapidly?”

Supply side capacity

Lala said the decision to tell Police that Toyota NZ could not take part in a tender to supply replacement Hiluxes was to a large extent about supply-side capacity.

The company was delivering the utes only to customers or firms that “really need a Hilux”, like the construction sector, he said. “We have already been successful in converting large fleet owners to move their people from diesel utes to hybrid SUVs.”

“We have more vehicles on back order than we have ever experienced, and for the past 18 months we have taken more orders than we have delivered vehicles to customers,” he told the Building Nations conference.

“The odds are high of there being a few Toyota or Lexus customers in this room, who have been waiting for their new vehicle for several months,” he said, scanning the room.

“I’m just checking [Police Commissioner] Andrew Coster isn’t here…”

Coster drives one of two hybrid Škodas Superb station wagons being trialled by NZ Police, according to Inspector Brian Yanko. The other is completing the final stages of its operational trials, in the extremes of provincial Otago.

“You may as well throw one in where it’s tough,” Yanko said, “and see how it performs in the worst conditions.”

*Jonathan Milne is the managing editor for Newsroom Pro

This story first appeared on the Newsroom website.

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