Slashing emissions demonstrates commitment to sustainability

Bupa purchased three new electric vans and had them fitted out locally, making them ideal for laundry pick-up and delivery services in Auckland and Christchurch. Installing chargers onsite meant the vans could fuel up on cheap, renewable electricity overnight. The project received co-funding from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.

About the journey

Bupa is one of New Zealand’s largest providers of retirement villages and aged-care homes. Diesel vans are normally used to run Bupa’s laundry service, with each visiting 5-6 sites and travelling up to 100km per day.

Bupa has made a public commitment to sustainability. The team felt that replacing some of their diesel vans with electric vans would be a positive step towards this goal and align with their vision of helping their residents, employees, and the community to live longer and healthier lives. It would also provide an opportunity to explore the financial savings that could be made by making the switch.

To figure out which electric vehicle (EV) would work best for the job, Bupa spoke to commercial EV manufacturers LDV. Following advice from their EV expert, Bupa purchased three new electric LDV E80 vans to replace the existing diesel van at their Mangere and Blockhouse Bay sites in Auckland, and Cashmere site in Christchurch.

The team knew that the 160km range of the LDV E80 was going to work well for their urban routes under 100km and the van was the perfect size for their laundry needs. Once the vans arrived, Bupa had each one fitted out with loading equipment and waterproof lining – a great example of how some small alterations can make EVs work for the job.

A publicly available 22kWh charger was then installed at each of the three laundry sites to make sure the vans could charge overnight and as needed. Bupa Property Business Support, Sharon Lehrke, says using the company that already did most of Bupa’s cabling made it easy to find expert advice and figure out which chargers they needed.

Before the chargers were installed, electrical assessments and safety checks were completed to make sure the site’s power supply was adequate and the charging setup would be safe. This provided peace of mind to Bupa and avoided any surprises down the track.

LDV visited Bupa’s sites to train the drivers on how to operate the new electric laundry vans. Sharon says she had LDV train some of the site laundry staff too, which was important because it meant there were others who could step in if the driver was away.

Results

Sharon says the electric vans have been running really well, comfortably travelling their daily routes with full loads. The battery range has worked out well, with an overnight charge proving enough for a day’s work.

“Initially there was excitement within the laundry teams about having new vans and them being electric, but they were definitely apprehensive about the new technology.” After some training and a bit of time to settle in, staff enjoyed driving the vans.

“All the drivers love the electric vans and treat them as their own. The driver in Christchurch loves that the neighbours don’t hear when she starts the van early in the morning.”

Sharon says fuel costs have been significantly reduced, not to mention carbon emissions. The combination of having a new and electric van has saved on maintenance costs as well.

As the first use of electric vans for laundry services in New Zealand, this project has shown that electric vans are ideal for replacing conventional vans – with a bit of planning for charging and reconfiguration of the vehicles to suit the task.

Following the success of these electric vans, Bupa has included the necessary cabling to support chargers in all of their five new builds and are looking into electric pool cars for villages as part of the company’s sustainability plan. 

Scope of the project

Cost breakdown

 Category  Item  Cost per unit  Quantity  Total
 Vehicles  LDV E80 Van (2018)  $70,000  3  $210,000
   Van fitout  $16,000  3  $48,000
   Signwriting  $666  3  $2,000
         $260,000
 Charging Infrastructure  Mennekes 22kW charger supply and installation  $20,000  3  $60,000
 Total Project Cost        $320,000
 EECA Co-funding        $145,000

Timeframe

Bupa’s electric van project kicked off in January 2019. The vans and chargers were purchased in February, and by May 2019 the vans were fitted out and on the road.

Suppliers

The electric vans were supplied by LDV Group, who Sharon says have been “amazing to work with and provided great communication and after-sale service.” For advice about sourcing their EV chargers, Bupa went to their usual cabling company Team Cabling who were able to suggest and install Mennekes chargers and provided post-installation support. Jacksons Van Interiors fitted out the new vans.

Advice

  • Plan your project. Do your research, make a plan and get quotes – Sharon says this will keep your project on track and help you avoid any unexpected costs or delays.
  • Find senior-level support. This can help get your EV project off the ground and drive its success.
  • Get quotes from multiple businesses. Good quotes cut down on expenses and can uncover elements of the project you might not have considered initially.
  • Think about your operating needs when choosing an electric vehicle. Think about the distances you need to travel, as well as things that might affect the battery use, such as the weight you are carrying. A knowledgeable supplier will help you figure out which EV will work best for you.
  • Get staff on-board when rolling out your project. New technology might mean different ways of working and changing ingrained processes. Communication is key.
  • Ensure your charger is correctly set up to provide data. Getting a check meter put in place at the charger, isolating the charger, and setting up the available app will help provide accurate information about your usage and any savings made.
  • Allocate enough time to prepare your LEVCF proposal. Successful proposals are not necessarily the longest ones – they tend to include costings, letters of support, consents supplied and clear benefits from the project.

Lessons for others

Bupa initially ran into an issue with overnight charging not working at one of the sites. After some investigation, it was discovered that staff were turning off the site power overnight as part of their usual energy efficiency routines. This was a simple fix but highlights the need to think about and communicate new operational processes when new technology is brought in.

Who else could do this?

  • Urban freight, transport and delivery services
  • Laundry and sanitation services
  • City Councils
  • Organic food delivery