Electrifying our food sector: about blimmin’ time

by | Jul 22, 2022 | News

In possibly the slowest shift to green transport in the history of four wheels, Fonterra unveiled its first electric tanker truck this week. Ironically it was done in Waitoa, which 100 years ago housed New Zealand’s largest fleet of electric milk trucks. After this week’s launch, the site is home to Milk-e, New Zealand’s first modern electric milk tanker.

Fonterra says the e-tanker trial will help the company understand what the future of electric milk collection and rural heavy transport looks like.

It’s long overdue. Transport is a key enabler in the food industry’s journey towards net zero emissions. But transport is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and one of the fastest growing. In Auckland it’s the largest. The Co-op says this is an opportunity to help the country identify and deliver lower carbon transport solutions.


NZ’s GHG emission profile. Transport is the third largest emitter


“The global technology investment in sustainable land, air and sea transport is phenomenal. Our teams are constantly screening the possibilities to see what could work across our supply chain”, says Fraser Whineray, Chief Operating Officer.

The e-tanker is part of Fonterra’s Electric Vehicle strategy that will see a third of the Co-op’s light vehicle fleet converted to EV’s by the end of 2023, while also focusing on transitioning medium and heavy vehicles​​.

The tanker will be the same size as Fonterra’s regular tanker with the capacity to carry 28,000 litres. However, because the ‘truck’ part of the tanker is a bit heavier with the battery it will carry around 2,300 litres of milk less. This enables Fonterra to operate within permitted weights.

Future food fuels

It’s been a bit of a week for alternative fuels.  New Zealand Post added the country’s first hydrogen truck to its fleet – the first of five being imported by Hyundai – as part of NZ Post’s goal of being a fully carbon neutral business from 2030 and achieving our science-based target of reducing carbon emissions between now and then.

Victoria University start-up, Liquium, announced a $1.5m investment for its green ammonia technology. Ammonia has a bright future as a replacement for diesel in shipping. Ammonia releases no carbon dioxide when it burns but it’s very costly to mamke. Liquium’s tech reduces the heat required in its manufacture.

Last month, Scania New Zealand put two of its very first fully electric trucks on local roads, the first of the new models sent outside of Europe, less than two years since Scania’s global headquarters in Sweden announced the new range for European market. Transport Talk who reported the story, said New Zealand was selected as one of the first regions for the electric model because of New Zealand’s promotion of and access to renewable energy.

The two Scania 25 P battery electric vehicles (BEV) were bought by the cartage firm Reliance Transport which received $500,000 in co-funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, helping the company in an initiative called Project SWITCH to help its business become the first fully electrified carbon negative on-road freight solution in the country.

Electrifying the food sector

Electrifying transport in our food production system will go some way to making our food production more sustainable, get us closer to achieving our CO2 emission targets and reducing our reliance on global fossil fuel markets.

The government is doing its part – sort of. It has committed by 2035 to have significantly reduced (not eliminated) transport-related carbon emissions and have a more accessible and equitable transport system that supports wellbeing. New Zealand is fortunate to have a plentiful supply of renewable electricity. Hydropower is our main renewable energy source, supplying 62% of the country’s total energy, geothermal adds another 18% and wind turbines supplying 4%. The remainder is mostly supplied by non-renewable gas and the dirty old coal-fired Huntly power station.

Another big source of emissions is process heat, which contributes 8% of gross emissions. Over half of that heat is supplied using fossil fuels, mainly gas and coal and almost all of it (84%) comes from industry, such as Fonterra’s milk dryers. Electrifying this sector is not that difficult because most of the heat required is under 100 degrees


Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund

To accelerate the uptake of low-emissions vehicles the government is extending its investment into reducing transport emissions with the Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF). Up to $18 M is available in the 2022/23 financial year to support the demonstration and adoption of low emission transport technology, innovation and infrastructure to accelerate the decarbonisation of the New Zealand transport sector. This fund builds on the now complete Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund (LEVCF), with an increase in size and scope. EECA will continue to administer the fund on behalf of the Government.




About the Author

Vincent Heeringa

Hi, I'm Vincent! I'm a co-founder of The Feed, a writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in food, tech and sustainability. In a previous life I was publisher of Idealog, Stoppress, NZ Marketing and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. I'm also the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’. When I'm not burning the midnight oil, I'm hitting the town or planting trees with my wife Sarah. Ping me to talk about all things food. @vheeringa

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