A positive switch even in the most difficult terrain


An incident response team working in remote terrain and dealing with all kinds of call-outs including avalanche control, has gone electric - showing positive contributions to climate resilience can be made everywhere.

The Milford Road Alliance is a partnership between Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Downer NZ to ensure the safe management of State Highway 94, between Te Anau and Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

Since May 2022, Manager Kevin Thompson’s team has been using an electric vehicle (EV) in some extreme conditions, including snow, ice, heavy rain and hot summers.

He says the switch to an electric vehicle has worked really well for his team.
“I say that, and I sound surprised. I mean we were pretty sceptical, right? But it has gone well.

“The team that uses it manages the Homer Tunnel, driving well over 200 kilometres each day, to look after incidents and make sure everybody gets through, and then they head back to Te Anau in the evenings.”

The EV has clocked over 76,000 kilometres in its first year on the job.

yellow electric vehicle against the snow mountain road

“We are used to four-wheel drives in our fleet, and obviously it’s a big fleet, but when this came out, people gravitated towards it and long story short we're pretty keen, we're pretty rapt with it.”

Waka Kotahi Director Regional Relationships James Caygill says it is impressive to see the team working in Fiordland National Park, one of the country’s most remote and breath-taking destinations, take steps to lighten their impact on the surrounding environment, especially when it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“By choosing to switch to an electric vehicle, the team is not only reducing their carbon emissions, but they are also contributing towards a more holistic, healthy and resilient transport system. Even in a place as remote as Milford Sound, where there are so many factors to consider, they’re showing it can be done.

“As Waka Kotahi/the Transport Agency, we are in a unique position to make tangible contributions towards climate resilience, and every action will work towards the collective goal of meeting our emissions reduction targets.”

Kevin Thompson says range is a big factor to consider, and this is something they continue to monitor. After a typical day’s driving, drivers are getting back to town with 40 to 50 kms left on the battery.

“When we tow, and we do, that range can drop quite dramatically and then you start to get a few people nervous about getting home. It also means we have to think about any incidents that occur during that travel so if this car has to attend to something else, that has to play into a decision.”

James Caygill says the transition to electric vehicles is just one action of many that Waka Kotahi is undertaking in order to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“Waka Kotahi is committed to playing its part as an organisation, with smarter travel options across the country, in order to both better enjoy our natural environment today and to leave a healthier, more sustainable world behind for future generations.”

Video link for the EV being driven by Kevin Thompson(external link)