Aotearoa New Zealand has long been considered both a clean, green environment and an early adopter of technology. The two accolades go hand-in-hand as the country looks to decarbonise and reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. We speak with three innovative transport companies working in or exploring opportunities in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and the transport technology available to address congestion while decarbonising.
In January 2021, the Climate Change Commission identified three sectors – transport, waste and energy – that need to change significantly if the goal of zero emissions by 2050 is to be met. Of these, transport is key with a report from the New Zealand Productivity Commission noting that while transport produces 20 per cent of New Zealand’s gross emissions, it makes up 40 per cent of those that are “addressable”.
Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan has called for significant, bold action across multiple sectors to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. With transport causing more than 40 per cent of the region’s emissions, the Council has begun electrifying its bus fleet. As a signatory to the C40 Green and Healthy Streets, the region has committed to purchasing only zero-emission buses by 2025 and to running an entirely electric bus fleet by 2040.
Electrification of transport fleets is something the New Zealand Government is already encouraging with subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs). But many would-be EV users argue that even if vehicles could be made more affordable, a country-wide charging network needs to be created to support the goal of having ‘cleaner’ cars.
Fast EV charging within reach
Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is working alongside JOLT, Australia's leading EV charge point operator. JOLT wants to make electric transport more accessible to drivers through zero-cost, fast charging and is building a network of charging stations, starting in Auckland. The company recently announced a partnership with Mitre 10 that provides access to 7kWh of free charging per day, providing about 40 to 50 kilometres of range depending on the type of vehicle. Thirty-nine of Mitre 10’s 84 locally-owned stores will have JOLT charging stations installed over time.
JOLT's New Zealand country manager, Chris Monaghan, says Auckland’s aggressive decarbonisation goals make the city a great place to expand and deliver JOLT’s offering. “The city has put a line in the sand with their emissions targets, so embracing third-party private investment to deliver EV charging solutions at scale, at no cost to the city, should be very welcomed by local and central governments. It’s clear government and private enterprise need to work together to deliver the scale required to cope with current and future demand in public EV charging facilities.”
JOLT is aiming for 250 EV fast chargers in Auckland. It will start deploying chargers later this year, with Auckland as the priority in 2022 and move into other metropolitan and provincial locations from 2023.
“Now is the time to act and strategically build at a pace that doesn't allow for current and future EV drivers to become nervous through lack of charging infrastructure. If this occurs, emissions targets become unachievable, and nobody wants that,” says Chris Monaghan.
Autonomous air taxis
Around the world, autonomous vehicles are under review as part of a modern city’s transport solution. Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is working with Wisk Aero, creator of autonomous air taxis, to help bring them to Auckland one day. Wisk has created an all-electric, self-flying air taxi that rises like a helicopter and flies like a plane. The aircraft is known as eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) and removes the need for a runway. It uses self-flying software combined with a human oversight from the ground.
Catherine MacGowan, Asia Pacific Region Director at Wisk, says Auckland is proving an excellent place to explore opportunities. “While air taxis can’t promise to fix traffic jams, we can confidently say that combined with other sustainable initiatives like Auckland Light Rail, the future of transport for Auckland will include greener choices for traversing the city. Wisk wants to lead the way in how New Zealanders think about autonomous, everyday flight, and Auckland is an incredibly innovative city that is always looking for new solutions,” says Catherine.
Before autonomous aircraft can be scaled for use, they require further development, certification and manufacturing, including a flight-testing programme. Wisk needs to prove that its taxis can integrate within Auckland’s airspace, which involves using small drones to begin with and the establishment of ground infrastructure. The next steps include demonstration flights and working closely with regulators before a gradual transition to commercial operations.
Catherine says that Wisk has built strong relationships in New Zealand since establishing here in 2016, and the company is one of the lead partners in the Government’s Airspace Integration Trials programme. She says the New Zealand Government has demonstrated a progressive vision to integrate drones and uncrewed aircraft into its current transport system.
“Our hope is that future uses of our air taxis will help improve access to healthcare, provide more transport options for people with mobility needs, and help connect remote communities to the services they need.”
Gondolas for minimal environmental impact
Another potential partner in a more sustainable transport future is Doppelmayr, traditionally known for its ropeway engineering, cable cars and ski lifts. Doppelmayr presents an opportunity for a gondola system to run like a metro system above Auckland’s streets, without the need to dig up and demolish existing infrastructure. In London, a temporary gondola erected before the 2012 Olympics to connect the ExCel Exhibition Centre at the Royal Victoria Dock with the O2 Arena on the Greenwich peninsula has now been made permanent. Others are in operation in Koblenz on Germany’s Rhine and La Paz in Bolivia, and one is planned for Paris.
Doppelmayr says that gondola systems are generally one third of the cost of light rail and 10 per cent of the cost of undergrounding, making them an affordable solution that can be delivered with speed and minimal impact. In addition, the company says gondolas generate less than a quarter of the greenhouse gases compared with other transport solutions. With potential benefits such as this, gondolas are well worth Auckland’s consideration as an alternative, more-sustainable transport solution.
“We were blown away by Aucklanders’ positive reaction to the gondola concept when it was first shared, so will endeavour to continue building momentum within communities, to bring everyone along on the journey,” says Gareth Hayman, General Manager of Doppelmayr New Zealand. “Innovation is going to get us through the climate crisis. We need to think and do everything differently if we are going to make a meaningful impact. Gondolas being used as public transport is a great example of this, providing material outcomes for communities, while minimising the overall impact on our environment.”
Find out more
Contact Investment Specialist Andrew Carpenter to learn more about investing in Auckland, New Zealand.
DISCLAIMER: This article provides general information on potential investment opportunities in Auckland and is not intended to be used as a substitute for financial advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the relevant author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited. Tātaki Auckland Unlimited disclaims all liability in connection with any action that may be taken in reliance of this article, and for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it.