New Zealand is highly dependant on foreign oil imports yet we have one of the highest percentages of “fuel free” renewable electricity generation in the developed world (and we could be doing even better by achieving 100% renewable electricity). It is obvious then, that the solution for personal transport in view of the pending Oil Crunch is electrical transportation. Recently, some brilliant moves have been made (for whatever motivation) to electrify the Auckland Rail Infrastructure. While some questionable decisions exist around the outsourcing of the new rolling stock production, at least in terms of the New Zealand Energy “Big Picture” this work is a giant move in the right direction towards Energy Independence.
At the other end of the North Island, in a more short sighted move (again for whatever reason), Wellingtonians are planning to drastically slash the number of electric trolleybus routes from nine down to five. Frankly this is stupid, and just goes to show that there is no coherent strategy in place for New Zealand in terms of Energy Independence and Transportation.
Here at FreeNRG4NZ we are also more than a little bit bamboozeeled why the fantastic National Rail Main Truck Line infrastructure developed by our forefathers is not properly utilised. A diesel train can move goods at a fraction of the fuel costs of a diesel truck and is inherently superior in terms of energy conservation because; 1) the rolling resistance of the steel wheels of trains is lower than that of truck tires on the road, and 2) trains encounter less proportional wind resistance than trucks since a train car is partly shielded from the headwind by the car in front of it (diesel rail can move a 1,000kg load about 174km per litre of fuel compared to trucks that moves a 1,000kg about 42km per litre of fuel) . But no, New Zealand continues to make endless costly improvements to its road network to accommodate the needs and wants of privately owned road freight truck companies like Mainfreight.
An electric rails system is even better than diesel and that is what we already have between Palmerston North and Hamilton. Kudos to the Engineers and Politicians that had the foresight to push for this from the 60’s through to the 80’s (read the history here). Why doesn’t New Zealand extend this electrification of the main truck rail line even further and introduce a system of Hub Distribution? Sure, it may take a little longer for all of the imported gadgets we love so much to arrive but the roads will be safer and one of the main justifications used for the electrification of the rail system in the 60’s remains today, namely – “Removing the Reliance on Imported Fuel”
In any case, while politicians and corporations dither willy nilly in terms of electrifying New Zealand transportation network, Electrical Scooters are starting to make an appearance on the world stage. And at costs that make sense compared to electric cars. http://www.zeroemission.co.nz/ are importing the beautiful and uber cool V-Moto Emax into New Zealand and “cooling the planer 1km at a time”. Much more affordable than their fully electric and hybrid electric car counterparts, electric scooters can be deployed rapidly into a transportation system and with the removable battery system they have an advantage in that they don’t require a large recharging infrastructure to be in place. Of course you will need to wrap up warm when driving and you can’t fit them with blow off valves so the uptake in Henderson is likely to be limited, but when Oil hits $200+ a barrel, they are going to sell like hot cakes.
While researching this Blog, I came across the good work from the team at Better Transport New Zealand and while their vision is heavily Aucklandish, it makes a lot of sense: http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/about-us/ :
- Equitable funding for all (Auckland) transport modes
- A framework for funding that reduces fossil fuel dependency
- A funding system that does not favour roads
- Transparent decision making on transport issues
- Extension of Auckland rail lines to major population centres
- Rail Tracks – Onehunga / Wiri-Manukau City Centre / Southdown-Avondale / Kumeu-Northcote
- Rail Services – West to Helensville, South to Tuakau, Hamilton and Wellington
- Improvement of rail infrastructure to meet urban passenger and freight needs
- Electrification of rail lines in Auckland region
- Lengthening of rail station platforms to accommodate full length of trains used
- Create policy on rail freight needs (including track capacity and need for more tracks on routes)
- Development of an Integrated Transport Network
- Covering rail/road/ferries/cycles/pedestrian
- Development of Newmarket rail station as major transport hub
- Shifted emphasis from single CBD/Britomart hub to multiple hubs at regional mode junctions
- Integration of tickets, fares and schedules between transport modes
- Better land use strategies and town planning to reduce trip demand
- Develop arterial ferry routes
- Intelligent use of roads and motorways
- Creation of more and better High Occupance Vehicle arterial lanes and carparks
- Discourage single occupant vehicles
- Encourage broader benefit cost benefit analysis for roading projects
- Extension of walkway and cycleway networks
- Creation of arterial cycleways and walkways
- Construct walkway and cycleway across Auckland harbour bridge