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Tech-Driven EV Transition at the University of Waikato

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The University of Waikato is replacing over 50% of its current vehicle fleet with electric vehicles (EVs) as part of a commitment to decrease emissions and advance sustainability efforts. This significant overhaul, set to unfold in the coming months, is anticipated to reduce scope one emissions by 183 tonnes annually. Scope one emissions refer to direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from sources controlled or owned by an organisation.

Image credits: University of Waikato

Once implemented, there will be nearly 80 EVs available to employees. EV charging stations are also being installed at the University’s Hamilton and Tauranga campuses. In the long term, the University aims to make EVs and charging stations available to staff outside of hours. If carried out, it would be able to mitigate indirect scope three emissions.

Scope three emissions are not generated by an organisation or because of activities from assets under its ownership or control. Instead, they are emissions for which the organisation has indirect responsibility, occurring up and down its value chain. For example, emissions produced by staff travelling in private vehicles to or from campuses. They are typically more challenging to address.

The fleet upgrade has been supported with just over $2 million in operational co-funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), an amount that the University has matched. This support aligns with the Carbon Neutral Government Programme, which aims to make several public sector organisations carbon-neutral by 2025.

The BYD ATTO 3 has been selected as the make and model for the fleet. A car-sharing company is overseeing the implementation, using an innovative approach to make it easier for staff to access vehicles with features like keyless access.

Sustainability has been a central focus for the University for the past 18 months and moving to EVs is a natural next step. According to the Chief Operating Officer at the University of Waikato, Jim Mercer, “We’ve been working on a range of sustainability initiatives, including the launch of the world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change, replacing two natural gas boilers with low-emission alternatives, a sizeable on-campus project to replace existing lighting with sustainable LEDs, installing solar arrays on a number of buildings, and various research initiatives designed to support a sustainable future for New Zealand and the world.”

This project marks the first phase. Over the next few years, ongoing upgrades will be carried out to ensure that the University consistently advances its efforts toward sustainability. The project is a great example of using technology to support a sustainable future while also making things easier for employees, saving them from having to collect and return keys physically, Mercer stated.

Paul Bull, EECA Public Sector Portfolio Manager, commended the University, stating that it is setting an example for other tertiary institutions and government organisations. The team is showcasing how one can integrate EVs into a fleet while also discovering other innovative methods to optimise vehicle usage, he commented.

Key players in the project included a SaaS firm providing software and solutions to help manufacturing companies go carbon-neutral, which conducted a fleet utilisation and optimisation study, and the installers of charging stations, who conducted campus electrical studies to understand the capacity of the network on site.

The University is recognised for its sustainability efforts and is among the top 100 out of over 1,400 institutions in the 2024 QS World University Rankings: Sustainability. Additionally, it was a recent finalist in the Sustainable Business Awards.


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