Fonterra’s Waitoa milk factory, once home to the country’s biggest fleet of electric milk trucks, will be trialling the first modern electric milk tanker over the next dairy season.
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SUPPLIED Fonterra’s new etanker, at right, being fitted out at its Morrinsville garage.

The new electric tanker, partly funded through the Government’s new Low Emission Transport Fund, is being fitted out in the dairy co-operative’s Morrinsville tanker depot and is due to hit the road in early May.

Road transport makes up 20 per cent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and the tanker is part of Fonterra’s electric vehicle strategy that will see a third of the co-operative’s light vehicle fleet converted to electric by the end of 2023 and half of the forklifts by the end of this year.

“This is an exciting space for the co-operative to be in right now, the amount of technology and research going on in this area globally is just phenomenal,” said Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray. “We’re exploring multiple options for renewable heavy transport, particularly in rural settings.”

As part of its longer term strategic goals published last year, Fonterra said it would invest $1 billion in sustainability initiatives over the next decade as it works towards its 2050 net zero target. It aims to reduce emissions at its manufacturing sites by 30 per cent by 2030 and said it was also assessing low emission energy options for its tankers, including electric and hydrogen.

Fonterra has 480 diesel tankers. The new electric tanker, with a cab and chassis made by Chinese construction machinery group XCMG, will be fitted with a regular 28,000 litre tank by Fonterra although it will carry about 2300 litres of milk less to compensate for the heavier truck.

The tanker is expected to have a range of about 140 kilometres on full charge, and its battery can be swapped out in about six minutes, allowing it to stay on the road. The battery takes about three hours to charge.

Waitoa has been chosen for the trial because it has lots of close supplying farms on relatively flat land, allowing the co-operative to do shorter runs and reduce battery consumption with fewer hills.

The trial will assess how far the tanker can travel, how easy it is to charge, milk collection, maintenance, efficiency, cost, and driver comfort and safety.

Fonterra said the cost is around double that of a normal tanker, but as time and technology progresses they are expected to become a lot cheaper. Running costs are also significantly lower with electricity the equivalent of 30 cents a litre.

Australians are being warned of another price hike, with the cost of milk set to go up.

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