Newsroom Pro Talks live interviews are made with the support of Spark.

The country’s biggest fossil fuel retailer is replacing all its company vehicles with EVs, saying petrol sales are plunging – but diesel continues to grow

The trucks and tractors driving New Zealand’s economy are so reliant on diesel that Z Energy says sales will drop only 8 percent through to 2035, but petrol sales have begun a projected 38 percent decline.

Mike Bennetts, who has been chief executive of Z Energy for 12 years, promised to stay on beyond the NZX-listed company’s purchase by the Australian fuel giant Ampol next month, to manage and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Talking to Newsroom Pro managing editor Jonathan Milne on an episode of Newsroom Pro Talks, Bennetts says there are already 40,000 electric vehicles on the road in New Zealand. “We are on the cusp of making all of our company cars electric vehicles, which sounds like madness when you’re a fossil fuel retailer.”

There are big challenges ahead like producing new fuels to reduce the industry’s emissions: “Diesel is not going to decline as quickly, because it’s such a core ingredient in New Zealand’s economic prosperity. Frankly, there’s not an electric vehicle alternative for the heavy vehicle task.”

Bennetts drives an electric Mini that he bought last year. “I’m a bit of a Mini fan. Since I’ve come back to New Zealand I’ve had three different models. My newest model is an electric model.”

And how does that go down with his staff, who depend for their livelihoods on petroleum sales?

“Well we’re more committed to actually helping our customers transition to a low carbon future,” he says. “And we can do that by selling good quality fossil fuels at the right price in a way that they can use.

“But if they want to get into things like hydrogen, electrons and bio, that’s a really important part. So it’s good for me to understand what are the pain points as an EV driver. And that helps inform how we roll out our EV charging infrastructure, or more importantly, what we do inside the home, or to help fleet managers manage their electric vehicle fleets.”

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Newsroom Pro Talks is made with the support of Spark.

Pro Talks is a live webinar series that looks at the crunchy part of big picture issues with the people whose decisions have a wider impact than just their own companies or enterprises. Hosted via Zoom, subscribers can watch our journalists interview industry leaders live and add their questions to the discussion. 

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Newsroom Pro managing editor Jonathan Milne covers business, politics and the economy.

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