New Zealand Company Vehicle

New Zealand Company Vehicle October 2014

The company fleet managers bible

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22 New Zealand Company Vehicle October 2014 Mighty River Power's plug-in hybrids This month we revisit the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and talk to the fleet manager of Mighty River Power, which has bought a few. John Oxley reports. FLEET REVIEW Driving the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle around Auckland is a big eye-opener, for despite its mid-size SUV positioning, it's an absolute pleasure to manoeuvre around the city streets, while driving is simplicity itself, since there's just an accelerator, and a selector lever for forward or reverse. No gears to worry about. And the difference between a car (including most hybrids) with a stop-start system and the PHEV is quite marked. With a stop-start (even the best) there's always a slight pause before you get going again, because the engine has to re-start. Might only be milliseconds, but you can feel the hesitation. With a PHEV, one moment you're standing still, the next you're moving forward. No hesitation, and what's more the torque you're getting from the electric motors is right at its peak. The same goes for fuel economy. With an ordinary car, whether it's petrol of diesel, it takes time to warm up the engine, and during this period the engine runs inefficiently, exceeding its normal fuel consumption dramatically – by as much as 30 to 60 percent. Conversely, a fully-charged PHEV doesn't need any warm-up and uses exactly the same amount of fuel at the start of the day as it does later – zero, as it runs on electric power onlyuntil the juice has run out, which it will do after about 50km – far more than the daily commute for most people. How hard is it to juice up a PHEV? Well, during driving the batteries are constantly being topped up as you slow down or brake, or the petrol engine will add charge as necessary. Or you can charge it up in your garage, using an ordinary power point. However, we decided to try out the fast charge unit at the Mighty River Power offices in Auckland, and at the same time had a chat to Mighty River's fleet manager Peter Corner. It takes about six hours to charge the Mitsubishi using an ordinary power point, but Mighty River's fast charger will recharge the batteries to 80 percent of capacity in about 30 minutes. I asked Peter what made Mighty River purchase PHEVs as company fleet vehicles. "Mighty River Power, and our flagship retailer, Mercury Energy, have had electric vehicles in our fleet for some time – we bought our first one a couple years ago, at a time when there were only a handful of them around the country," said Peter. "I've bought one myself this year, and lots more people are looking at them now. "As a company that generates renewable energy, it's really exciting to see more EVs on the road, and new models coming onto the market from major manufacturers, including the Mitsubishi Outlander." Next up, I asked how easy fleet drivers found the PHEV to drive? "It's great to see people's reaction when they drive an electric vehicle for the first time," said Peter. "Often their expectations are very different, and they come away from it feeling really positive, having a great experience in terms of comfort, quietness and performance – not to mention the other benefits of running on electricity. "We often get people saying they've forgotten that they're driving an EV at all." I wondered whether the PHEV meets or exceed expectations. "Electricity is a fantastic renewable resource, not only clean but a lot cheaper than fossil fuels," said Peter. "For our people, working for an energy company that generates renewable energy, it's a really rewarding feeling to be driving along and knowing that you're powered with your own hydro and geothermal renewable power. "Along with being a realistic replacement option in our fleet now, EVs are a fantastic fit with our business." Currently a charging station is quite expensive, and we asked whether Peter would recommend getting one . "We've had charging stations for some years now," he said, "and it's exciting to think about a future where we're all plugging in at work and at home where we park our cars – it's going to become the norm. "Rather than filling your car up with imported fossil fuels at the petrol station down the road, you can now plug your car in at home and charge up on home-grown energy." Finally, we asked Peter if he would recommend the PHEV to other companies. "Electric vehicles have come a long way in just a few years," he replied. "What we're seeing with these new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is an answer to a lot of the myths out there around electric vehicles being too different from other cars – in terms of range, performance and practicality. "EVs are just like any other car, just better. They're a great option, because they can be powered with New Zealand's renewable electricity." Mighty River Power's Peter Corner (left) chats to Company Vehicle managing editor John Oxley while the Outlander PHEV recharges quietly in the background.

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