ContainerCo’s electric heavy vehicle hits the road

ContainerCo’s eHV is used on the company’s runs between port and rail facilities and their depots in Auckland

In December last year, ContainerCo (NZL) began operating New Zealand’s largest electric heavy vehicle (eHV). This was done with support from the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA).

The unit can carry three 20 ft containers and is 22 m long (the maximum size allowed on New Zealand’s roads without a permit). It has an F-series Isuzu cab and chassis with an SEA electric powertrain. It took about a year to design and deploy, and currently moves containers between port and rail facilities and ContainerCo depots in Auckland. It has a theoretical range of 350 km, but real-world conditions will see this reduce, when transporting containers, to around 200 km.

ContainerCo’s eHV driver Adam Jordan

When ContainerCo managing director Ken Harris pitched the idea for the electric truck to his tiny Wellington headquarters staff of two, he argued that ContainerCo had an ideal use case – the runs were typically flat, short and frequent trips between set points, all with three-phase commercial power.

Ken Harris is a persuasive man, and it only took a year from that pitch for the details to be ironed out and the unit hitting the road.

A big step forward

At its launch, Mr Harris noted the electric truck marks an important step in reducing air and noise emissions, while being cost-effective to operate, especially with current Government incentives.

“We operate our container businesses from sites right around the country, and the ability to silently and cleanly move containers to and from rail and ports in urban environments is a big step forward,” Mr Harris says. “They [the eHVs] open the door for us to move through urban routes at night without disturbing residents. We can see a lot more units in our fleet in the future. We are also looking into electric forklifts replacing diesel-powered machines inside our facilities quite soon.”

ContainerCo worked in a funding partnership with EECA to identify the most energy-efficient option, while maintaining size and operating ability. It was deter-mined that ContainerCo wanted up to 15 hours before recharging. After scoping and identifying suppliers, the block grant was straightforward.

EECA staff were helpful every step of the way, including with supplying information to other Government departments when needed, Mr Harris says. “It really was a partnership with EECA. They were committed to seeing us succeed.”

The silent runner

ContainerCo’s driver is Adam Jordan, who approached the eHV like any true operator. The unit was taken down the motorway a few times at its speed-limited 90 km per hour, the batteries were tested to their limits, and pedestrians warned about the approach of the (otherwise silent) unit via his love of Metallica.

Mr Jordan has moved hundreds of containers since starting his runs in December, and has shown just as many interested conventional truck drivers in Auckland the eHV and its specs.

ContainerCo businesses include not only the empty container terminals, but also the second-largest hire and sales company for modified and unmodified shipping containers in New Zealand. Both business divisions have already laid claim to the truck, and all customers have reacted positively to the news that they can have a fully electric movement for empties between facilities, and to and from port and rail.

Ken Harris says the size of this basic task increases year on year as trade grows, and the transport of these containers is frequently within an urban environment and over short distances – less noise and pollution means the increasing intensification is low impact.

Expected to be the first of several units, the truck was selected after a review of the available technology, the relevant transport market, and the resulting financial costs and benefits. Reports on its use are being made available to EECA. The project was managed by Margaret Harris.