Kirsten Corson loathes to get behind the wheel of a traditional combustion engine vehicle these days. As far as she’s concerned, she might as well be driving an old tractor. But get her behind the wheel of an electric car and she’s happy, reveling in the power, smoothness and silence.
Corson is keen to help more Kiwis experience the thrill of going electric. And as the General Manager of Yoogo Share, the company behind New Zealand's first 100 per cent electric car sharing service, she’s doing just that.
Yoogo Share recently brought 100 new pure electric vehicles to Christchurch, including BMW i3s and Hyundai Ioniqs, and have project managed the installation of 100 chargers across seven hubs around the city so far. The cars are shared between more than 3000 staff from a mix of 12 public and private organisations and the public are also able to rent them via an online booking system – starting at $14.50 an hour.
Yoogo started out as a business in 2014 with a focus on fleet leasing and management. It didn’t take long to notice, via GPS data, that a lot of their clients’ vehicles sat empty in carparks all day. “It just seemed a real waste of money,” says Corson. “It got us thinking about fleet optimisation and how we could add more value to businesses.”
Car sharing was an obvious solution and 100% electric car sharing sounded even better. In the South Island, it was something the Christchurch City Council was already investigating. Fast forward to early 2018 and Corson found herself working closely with Christchurch City Council and officially launching Yoogo Share alongside Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
A few things made Christchurch an attractive place to test the platform: the city’s compact size, which meant “range anxiety” was not such an issue (the cars have a range of about 200 kilometres), locals’ interest in sustainability initiatives, the Council’s visionary approach to future transport and up-front support from 12 foundation organisations. Meridian Energy is the scheme’s electricity partner.
Corson says many of the foundation organisations had wanted to put electric vehicles into their fleets for a while but were understandably deterred by cost. “It’s really challenging for them because you’ve got the cost of vehicles, the chargers and then you’ve got the cost of installing them. That’s why Yoogo Share is really appealing, because they can go green without the hassle and it’s cost effective as well.”
The company has been impressed by the uptake from the general public as well, with a varied demographic signing up. “A lot of private users have said that instead of having a second car they’ll use Yoogo Share,” says Corson. “It’s $14.50 an hour to use the cars, so it’s really cost effective – and the overnight rate of $36 from 6pm through to 8am the next morning is due to be launched in the next month.”
Getting it right
Yoogo Share is New Zealand's first 100 per cent pure electric car sharing service and Corson says there is already a lot of interest from other regions.
“We’ve got business customers with offices in other parts of the country asking, ‘When are you going to open in Auckland? When are you going to open in Wellington? We’ve got their staff coming into Christchurch, picking up our cars at Christchurch Airport, using them for the day and going, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool’. The big focus right now is getting it right in Christchurch.”
Car sharing is something the Government supports too – directly, through a contestable fund, and through its promotion of electric vehicles as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Christchurch, Dalziel says the service will help the Christchurch City Council achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Corson says the variety of vehicles in the electric car sharing fleet will improve over time, with SUVs and vans coming on stream. “But at the moment we’re limited to compact cars so Christchurch is a perfect place to start.”
Yoogo Share currently has 100 pure electric vehicles in Christchurch located at seven hubs across the city – from Christchurch Airport to Lyttelton. Drivers must register online or via the Yoogo Share App and are sent an access card after submitting their driver licence for approval.
They tap the card on the windscreen of the shared cars to open them after making an online booking. They can then drive the car to wherever they need to go, bring it back to the hub afterwards, plug it into the charger and tap their access card on the charger to end their booking. The final step is to tap the access card on the windscreen of the car to lock it.
Corson says the cars are named after Yoogo Share staff, customers and people who’ve helped them along the way. “So when you make a booking you get given the name of the car you’ll be driving. Jacinda the Ioniq is popular.”
Yoogo Share’s 12 foundation members are: Christchurch City Council, Christchurch Airport, Meridian Energy, Ara Institute of Canterbury, Aurecon, Beca, the Canterbury District Health Board, Chapman Tripp, Tonkin and Taylor, Environment Canterbury, Jacobs and Warren and Mahoney. Collectively, they have removed 115 combustion engine vehicles from their fleets.
Corson says Yoogo Share can track carbon savings for the whole region based on the usage of the pure electric vehicles and the company has set up a joint initiative with the Department of Conservation to plant trees on a reserve in Evans Pass based on carbon saving milestones reached.