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

Automakers have told New Zealand police not to buy more petrol and diesel vans.
Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

By Jonathan Milne* for Writing

Automakers have told New Zealand police not to buy more petrol and diesel vehicles as they try to curb sales of high-emission vehicles.

Toyota has told New Zealand police it will no longer supply them with Hilux as it delivers fewer well-known utility vehicles while waiting for a more sustainable alternative.

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

Police say they have approached Toyota and other automakers asking if they could supply 50 new vans for operational use, replacing aging Hilux and Holden Colorado vehicles.

Toyota NZ propelled the Hilux to the top of sales with adverts featuring Barry Crump and the ‘bugger’ dog, but it is now grappling with the need to cut sales of its highest emitting petrol and diesel vehicles.

“I will say publicly here that we will ship less Hilux until a more sustainable alternative is available,” said chief executive Neeraj Lala.

“We will deliver to customers or companies that really need a Hilux for a specific purpose. We have already successfully converted large fleet owners to convert their employees from diesel utility vehicles to hybrid SUVs.”

He told Newsroom: “We chose not to bid on the tender. [from NZ Police] given current supply constraints and the need 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 extreme weather conditions, for example – placed on their utility vehicles were too high for any hybrid or electric vehicle still on the market.

Inspector Brian Yanko, head of fleet management, said the police operational vehicles carried more heavy equipment than a standard vehicle could handle.

Driving quickly to respond to emergencies placed additional demands on a vehicle, and cars had to operate in changing weather conditions in more off-road parts of New Zealand.

“During these really big weather events and floods, we have to make sure our vehicles have the capacity and the capacity to cope with the service,” Yanko told Newsroom.

“We need utilities that have a high ride, can handle the capacity and can handle the weight.

“If we were to suffer, God forbid, from another Christchurch or Kaikōura-type earthquake and it destroyed the electrical infrastructure, we still need to be able to respond. We don’t want our fleet is incapacitated within 24 hours and begins to be grounded – we still need to be able to react even in these circumstances.”

The police came under fire when they announced the replacement of their petrol-powered Holden Commodores with new Czech-made petrol-powered Škodas. But they soon started testing two Škoda hybrids as well, and ordered 12 more.

Yanko revealed that New Zealand Police will start testing electric vehicles next year. It is no coincidence that Škoda has announced that it will launch its Enyaq iV electric SUV next year.

“I’m really aware that we had a bit of a slow start, but I think it will be a quick end. It’s going to pick up speed all of a sudden,” Yanko said.

“We are aware that the market for hybrids and electric vehicles has not yet caught up with utilities.

“We are aware that some of the brands are planning to introduce these vehicle models in the near future, so we are really interested to see what is on the horizon so that we can look for decarbonization opportunities.”

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

“We are looking for decarbonization opportunities, not just with hybrids but with electric vehicles. But obviously we have to do that very carefully and make sure that the vehicle is still fit for purpose, and that we can still meet the job requirements.”

Toyota is due to announce a science-based emissions reduction target in the coming week, Lala told the Building Nations infrastructure conference in Wellington, which would mean a rapid acceleration of its decarbonization. Its parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation, currently pledged to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (those for business operations and energy consumption) by 68% by 2035. However, it was far less ambitious about reducing emissions from its vehicles once they chase the lot (scope 3).

It pledged to reduce Scope 3 emissions for light passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles by 33.3% per vehicle-mile by 2030, and 11.6% for medium and heavy-duty freight trucks.

Toyota’s Prius and Corolla models made it a leader in the hybrid market, but it was slow to celebrate electric vehicles. The company has hedged its bets on whether the future of electric vehicles is lithium-ion or solid-state batteries, and is currently investing in both.

“We continue to encourage our new and used vehicle customers to purchase hybrid vehicles,” Lala said. “Over 30% of our new vehicle sales are now hybrids and our emissions are down.”

Next year, Toyota is launching the BZ4X, its first all-electric SUV. “Powering these initiatives and electrification is just one piece of a complex mobility puzzle that must be the foundation of our 2050 roadmap,” Lala said.

“The big question is can the power companies and our grid be able to handle mass charging in the middle of winter, even if we are charging vehicles during off-peak hours? Is the grid resilient to handle continuity if demand increases rapidly?

Supply side capacity

Lala said the decision to tell police that Toyota NZ could not enter a tender to supply replacement Hiluxes was largely about supply-side capacity.

The company only delivered the utilities to customers or businesses that “really need a Hilux,” such as the construction industry, he said. “We have already successfully converted large fleet owners to convert their employees from diesel utility vehicles to hybrid SUVs.”

“We have more out-of-stock vehicles than we’ve ever known, and over the past 18 months we’ve taken more orders than we’ve delivered vehicles to customers,” he said. said at the Building Nations conference.

“Chances are there are 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 is not here…”

Coster drives one of two Škodas Superb hybrid station wagons tested by New Zealand police, according to Inspector Brian Yanko. The other is completing the final stages of its operational trials, in the extremes of the province of Otago.

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

*Jonathan Milne is the editor of Newsroom Pro

This story first appeared on Writing website.

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