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  • Writer's pictureMike Casey

Moving our business to electric vehicles

Forest Lodge Orchard now runs on 100% electricity following the purchase of two electric Hyundai Kona's earlier this month. We believe this is one of the last pieces of the puzzle, and now makes us New Zealand's first fully electric / zero emission food producer, and possibly the first zero emission food producer in the world (although that's tough to verify for certain).

Two white Electric Hyundai Konas infront of Forest Lodge Orchard sign
Forest Lodge Orchard's electric Konas

We traded in the orchard's diesel ute and our family's Rav4 at the Hyundai dealership in Cromwell with ease, and are now enjoying our new electric transport.

These Kona's are the 64 kWh series II and cost $79,000 NZD each with a government rebate of $8625, which bought them down to just over $70k. If charging purely from the grid it costs us around $9 for a full charge, however with our solar and battery array we are expecting the cost to be closer to $2 a charge and are currently collecting the data to verify this. We drive an average of 100km per day, meaning a daily energy cost of $3 (or under $1 with our solar).

With the replacement of the orchard ute we estimate to save about $5000 per year in diesel and road user charges, and over 5 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions. Having an electric family car will save around $3500 a year and 3.5 tonnes of CO2.

Addressing Hesitations towards electric vehicles

Naturally, with new technology, people have hesitations. We have had to adapt the way we do many tasks to accommodate the difference in capabilities.

What about the range? Can you still going skiing?

Our family loves our snow sports, biking, and the general outdoors lifestyle. It's important that the Kona can make it up to Cardrona and Treble Cone ski fields without issue!

EV Kona in the car park at Cardrona
Our Kona on a family ski trip

Some important things to note

  • A round trip from FLO to the top Cardrona is 150kms

  • You can use tyre chains as normal

  • The Thule Roof box decreases Kona range by about 50km

  • We use just over a 1/4 of the battery to get to the top of the Cardrona car park.

  • Regeneration when descending the hill adds about 13kms to the range

From left to right: The total range left in the Kona at the top of the hill is 229km, and after descending, the range left is 242km. The Cardrona road is 14km, meaning that if the range estimations are accurate, regeneration is well over 90%.

What about towing capacity?

This is definitely something that requires behavioural change, as the Kona's have no ratable towing capacity. Previously, we had towed a trailer when we went to the rubbish dump and recycling centre, as we have no council services where we are based.

The Kona can have an 80kg maximum tow ball installed, designed for bike racks. One thing we have ordered is the Thule Cargo Carrier, which is 14kgs, meaning we can cargo 60kgs on recycling and rubbish. The dimensions will allow us to fit two 110L wheelie bins onto the back of the Kona and thus negating the need for a trailer.

Cargo carrier that goes on the back of the car, mounted on a tow ball
Thule Cargo Carrier



And we will look at mounting a roof rack similar to this one on the top of the Orchard Kona so that we can cart heavier loads for the orchard that require pickup from town.

Roof cage mounted on roof racks to carry cargo
Thule Roof Cage
Do you need a separate charger?

The Kona comes with two cables. One is a trickle charger which you can plug into any normal 230V 10amp wall socket. It charges at a maximum of 2.4 kWh, and at that rate would take over 24 hours to charge a battery from empty to full. We found it wasn't quite fast enough to meet our business and family demands, especially since we wanted to charge fast when we had an abundant supply of solar generation.

For $3000 a piece, we installed two 22 kWh fast chargers, one in the house and one in the shed for our staff to use. We realised afterwards that the most the Kona will charge on AC is 7 kWh, which is probably their biggest shortcoming, as it still takes 9 hours for a complete charge (or about 3 hours to recharge our daily use) although with a DC rapid charge you can get to 80% in about an hour, which is crucial when you are on a road trip!

Next steps in EV validation for our business

Over the next few months, we will record the exact power consumed by both our home charger and our electric charger, so that we can report back on the exact costs of energy and the overall financial pay back period of the cars.

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