Sunday, March 3, 2024

Fonterra powers ahead with electric milk tanker

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What may be the world’s first of its kind, Milk-E begins trials out of Waitoa factory.
Minister for Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods and Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray launch the new electric milk tanker in Morrinsville. Photo: Gerald Piddock
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New Zealand’s – and perhaps the world’s – first electric milk tanker has been unveiled in Morrinsville and will be on the road operating this milking season.

Dubbed Milk-E, the tanker will be trialled by Fonterra over the next two years as a solution to decarbonise its milk collection fleet of almost 500 tankers.

The tanker was built in Fonterra’s depot in Morrinsville and will be based at the co-operative’s Waitoa factory.

From there, it will be dispatched like any other tanker on a route to collect milk when milk collections start to get underway over the next month.

It will be managed and have its data collected and monitored at Fonterra’s office in Hamilton, from where the co-operative oversees its national tanker fleet.

It can carry 28,000 litres and has a range of about 140km on a full charge. It costs about 30 cents per litre of milk to run.

Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray said Milk-E will help reduce both Fonterra’s emissions and its diesel costs.

“It’s early days, Milk-E is a trial for us, we have a lot to learn and the team have done an amazing job to get up to this point,” said Whineray.

The trial has multiple parts, including tanker maintenance and driver training, he said.

“If it is successful, we can expect to see more of these in the future, because driving at 30 cents a litre for electricity instead of diesel prices is very favourable.”

It is believed to be the first full-sized electric milk tanker in the world, he said. 

After the tanker has finished its route and the milk has been removed at the factory, it is cleaned and the battery – which sits behind the driver cab – is removed by a crane and a replacement is installed.

That battery is then taken away for recharging. Whineray said the process should take about six minutes.

Read: Life on the milk run

Excluding the spare battery, the tanker costs in excess of $600,000. Fonterra received co-funding for the project from the Government’s Low Emissions Transport Fund, which is administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

Minister for Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods said the technology has the potential to be transformational.

The nationwide emissions from Fonterra’s milk collection are estimated to be about 126,000 tonnes of CO2 and if this project is successful, it could significantly reduce Fonterra’s heavy fleet emissions and help NZ meet its climate targets.

“It will offer important lessons for Fonterra’s competitors who want to follow suit. The project provides an important piece in the nation’s heavy freight jigsaw given the valuable insights it will provide into how to manage the logistics of operating and changing heavy freight vehicles.”

Heavy freight is a large emissions producer and the trial will play a valuable role in helping to understand how this technology works in a NZ context so it can be shared across other companies, Woods said.

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