Efforts by government departments to decarbonise their fleets could require more than just a one-to-one replacement of fossil fuel cars with electric vehicles (EVs). Instead, agencies are being urged to reduce the overall size of their fleets and replace some taxi and rental car use with car-sharing services in a new report from Mevo.

The Government emits an estimated 483,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year in meeting its energy and transport needs, but has pledged to decarbonise or offset 100 percent of those emissions by the middle of the decade. In its report, the car-sharing firm Mevo has estimated that transport alone accounts for 269,872 tonnes of emissions produced by the Government.

Replacing the 15,007 internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the fleet with EVs could reduce emissions by two-fifths, Mevo found, but the Government would still be responsible for emissions from its heavy reliance on taxis and rental cars as well as the trace emissions involved in manufacturing the vehicles and producing electricity to power them. Instead, the firm recommended, the Government could slash transport emissions by more than 70 percent if it also reduced the size of its fleet by nearly a third and used an EV car-share service to replace most taxi trips and car rentals, as well as some travel that would have been done in a government-owned vehicle.

The report found that fleet vehicles are generally used for about 5 to 7 percent of any given week. Car-sharing could enable departments to invest less in unused vehicles and simply have access to cars when they need them, Mevo suggested.

Moreover, the data on vehicle use by government is iffy at best.

“I sat with a government department very recently with a large fleet very similar to the fictitious one [referenced in the report] and 40 percent of their vehicles are not tracked,” founding director Erik Zydervelt told Newsroom.

“They have no idea what [their cars are] doing, bar an end-of-year kilometre report. On top of that, those vehicles are not being used on nights, not being used weekends and not being used that much during the week.”

Finn Lawrence, Zydervelt’s business partner, said the same thing.

“They actually really don’t know a lot about how their cars are being used. We haven’t had anyone who can provide us with solid data about how far their fleet cars are being driven. A lot of them have an Outlook calendar or a low-tech system for managing these.”

If a government department with a fleet of 100 vehicles were to fully decarbonise, it could still be responsible for about 1,000 tonnes of transport emissions, according to the report. That includes 116.3 tonnes of emissions from powering EVs, given New Zealand’s electricity system is not fully renewable, and another 214.1 tonnes from ‘built emissions’ created in manufacturing the vehicles. Under the public sector decarbonisation pledge, government departments are not responsible for those sorts of third-party emissions.

The bulk of the continuing emissions, more than 600 tonnes, would come from taxi and rental car travel – which make up some 40 percent of travel by this fictitious department in the report.

Lawrence and Zydervelt split government vehicle use into three categories – regular use, which is routine and pre-scheduled travel predominately achieved with fleet vehicles; peak use, which is sporadic and occasionally emergency travel achieved with a mix of taxis and fleet vehicles; and remote use, which relies on rental cars and taxis for travel in a different city or to an airport.

“We have spent quite a lot of time over the four years that we’ve been running Mevo in a lot of conversations with various government departments. The big thing that we know is that the departments spend a lot on taxis and rental cars,” Lawrence said. The report estimates that a government department with a fleet of 100 vehicles could spend an additional $1.5 million on taxis in a year.

“I can think of a half-dozen meetings I’ve been in where that’s a low-end of the figure.”

The Mevo report envisions replacing the bulk of peak and remote travel with car-share EVs, allowing the fleet to reduce in size and taxis and rental cars to be used far less. This would result in 30 percent cost savings, the report claims.

Further investment in EV car-share schemes could have a similar impact on the secondhand EV market to a one-to-one replacement, the Mevo report also argues. In fact, Mevo says it cycles its fleet more rapidly than the Government, meaning EVs bought and used by Mevo will find their way into private hands more quickly.

“Electric cars are a big part of the solution,” Lawrence said.

“The real point that we’re trying to make here is that it should be at least as important to think about having fewer cars as well as electric cars.”

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

Leave a comment