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Proposed CBD Emission Free Zones Put Spotlight on Vehicles

Cities around the world, including Auckland, are looking at the creation of emission-free zones in city-centres as an initiative to reduce the impact of pollution on residents, but how will this impact the commercial vehicle sector and goods delivery in the CBD?

When Auckland Mayor Phil Goff attended a City Labs C40 meeting in Paris in 2017, he signed the Fossil Fuel Free Streets (FFFS) declaration alongside mayors from major cities including Paris, London, Los Angeles and Mexico City to procure only zero-emission buses from 2025 and creating a Zero-Emissions Area (ZEA) in the city centre by 2030.

As a result, Auckland City recently released a public discussion document for the creation of a Zero-Emissions Area in the heart of Auckland City. This means that any business that relies on vehicles to deliver to the CBD is on notice, with only 10 years for the sector to comply with a Zero-Emission target.

Drive Electric chairman, Mark Gilbert says that the focus on commercial vehicles comes at a good time. “It's common knowledge that the lower part of Queen Street is quite polluted. Diesel buses get a lot of the blame, but there are a lot of other diesel vehicles entering and exiting the city, plus ships coming into port contribute also.

“Given all the investment that's going on to improve the city center to make it more liveable, I think having a program to achieve a cleaner atmosphere down at the bottom of town makes good sense. And that means ultimately, the diesel vehicles will have to go,” he said.

The statistics aren’t good for Auckland. Auckland’s black carbon measure of 2.3 - 5.3 is nearly double reported results in America and the UK, making Auckland higher than most developed cities, with the exception of those in China. Black carbon is a component of fine and ultra-fine particulate matter produced during diesel fuel combustion and have been connected to chronic and acute health impacts world-wide.

And Queen Street also has notably higher hourly NO2 concentrations, with the 200 µg/m3 hourly average standard - the minimum reasonable standard of air quality - having been breached on several occasions.

With buses being a large part of the problem, Auckland Transport is already moving to introduce a Zero-emission bus fleet, with two 'extra-large' electric buses rolling into Auckland by August next year, adding to two others already being trialed and six new e-buses being purchased for Waiheke. AT will also be trialing hydrogen buses and hope to bring forward the transition to purchasing only non-carbon-emitting vehicles by 2025.

“There's a lot of conversation about the number of cars that come into the city. But there's probably less conversation had about how many vehicles stay in the city and just do those loops around and between business to business,” Gilbert says.

“It is pleasing to see private companies taking the initiative to move towards zero emission vehicles ahead of the deadline.

“Waste Management for example, a firm that picks up rubbish around the city, is showing great leadership by moving to an entirely electric fleet in New Zealand. The thing I admire about them is that they probably don't have to do this. It's probably cheaper to keep running diesel versions of waste trucks. But they're taking a leadership role.

Another company, Civic Contractors, has also been investing in the only all-electric compact sweeper in Australasia and recently welcomed their first fully electric rubbish compacting truck to Auckland to be trialed in central and south Auckland. Their plan is to shift the majority of our fleet to electric vehicles by 2025.

But are we seeing the availability of the types of vehicles that would allow zero emission delivery of goods around the CBD?

“A lot of publicity is focused on getting the passenger car fleet sorted, but not getting a lot of attention is on what's happening in the light commercial vehicle market and there are a lot of exciting opportunities in that space as well.

“LDV for example, has a superb range of electric cargo vans and the likes of the Nissan ENV 200 van - sort of like your traditional bread van you could call it – along with Renault covers the smaller vans that dart around the city.

“They're more expensive than diesel equivalents and I think that's the issue that holds people back.

But I think what people forget, with electric vehicles, you've got lower operating costs. Because you're going from a vehicle that's got circa two thousand moving parts, to one with circa twenty moving parts. The benefit comes in the operational life of the vehicle, not so much in the sticker price. So, people just have to do the math really and compare total cost of ownership.

“New Zealand is not alone in this. Most counties around the world are looking to achieve a zero emissions target, so doing nothing isn't an option. For New Zealand to restore and maintain its ‘clean green’ image, we've got to get rid of the carbon issues, and certainly lower Queen Street, and the CBD, is a great place to start.”

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