Fonterra is trialling the use of an electric milk tanker - named Milk-E for short - as the co-operative continues to decarbonise its fleet.
The e-tanker is the first of its kind to be launched in New Zealand and will operate out of Fonterra’s Waitoa UHT site.
It costs about 50% more than a conventional tanker, but the savings on diesel alone will make the investment economical, said the co-operative. The purchase was co-funded by the New Zealand government’s Low Emissions Transport Fund.
Fraser Whineray, chief operating officer, commented: “The team here at our Morrinsville Workshop have done a fantastic job of pulling this tanker together. Being a New Zealand first, there’s been a lot of creative thinking and Kiwi ingenuity to bring Milk-E to life.”
Behind the e-tanker trial
Milk-E forms part of Fonterra’s electric vehicle strategy that will see a third of the co-op’s light vehicle fleet converted to EVs by the end of 2023, the co-op told DairyReporter. Fonterra currently operates 480 tankers and replaces 70 per year.
Building Milk-E took 36 days – nine more than what would be required to put together a conventional tanker – due to the new technology within the EV.
The vehicle, which has a swappable battery compartment, has a range of 140km on a single charge, with three hours required to fully recharge.
To minimise downtime, however, Fonterra is operating a battery swap system across its Waitoa site, with staff able to change the battery with a fully charged one in just six minutes.
“Waitoa has lots of close supplying farms on relatively flat land, so we can do shorter runs where we can reduce battery consumption with less hills,” the spokesperson added.
The e-tanker’s cab and chassis were supplied by Chinese machinery construction group, XCMG, with Fonterra’s regular tankers attached to it. It will carry around 25,700l of milk.
Addressing what comes next for Milk-E - and whether the trial will be further expanded - Fonterra’s spokesperson told DairyReporter: “We still have a lot to learn from Milk-E. We will trial [it] over the next few years before looking to buy more electric tankers for our fleet.
“We will look at a number of factors, including how far it can go, how easy it is to charge as well as milk collection, maintenance, efficiency, cost, and driver comfort and safety.
“We are looking forward to learning more about heavy vehicle e-transport in a rural setting.”