First electric Skoda has been delivered to the NZ Police. Is it full charge ahead?
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The New Zealand Police took delivery of its first electric Skoda on July 22: the new Superb iV Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), which combines a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with a battery pack that's good for up to 62km of pure-electric driving. Total petrol/electric range is up to 930km.
It's just a single example and it's not going straight into front-line duties. Like any prospective new "Prime 1" patrol vehicle, the iV will undergo a three-phase testing programme that could take up to six months, before it's approved as a primary response vehicle.
It's a logical, some might say necessary move for the NZ Police, which heralded the conventional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Superb as a "more environmentally friendly" patrol vehicle when it announced the contract with Skoda NZ in November last year. The Government has since put huge focus on EVs in its Clean Car Discount programme for 2021, to be followed by a "feebate" scheme in 2022 penalising high-emitting vehicles and rewarding frugal ones.
The current 162kW FWD and 206kW Superbs on the Police fleet produce 162g/km and 176g/km respectively (both still under the 192g/km cap where 2022 fines begin, by the way). The Superb iV is rated at 160kW and just 40g/km, according to the WLTP test standard.
NZ Police national fleet manager Brian Yanko acknowledged the "need to lower carbon emissions in the NZ Police" at a media event launching the retail version of the Superb iV this week.
"Not only is this important in terms of accountability to the NZ Government's requirements and expectations, it's also our social responsibility."
Yanko also explained that due to the extreme demands of Police use, "no vehicle gets a free pass". So despite the ICE Superb already being fully approved as a Prime 1 vehicle, testing starts all over again for the iV.
The first phase focuses on general functionality, including performance under duress-driving and radio frequency interference (a potential problem area with electrified vehicles). The second phase is user testing, where staff interact with the vehicle in controlled circumstances and give feedback.
If the vehicle passes the first two phases, it moves into real-world operation, liveried up and kitted out. But it's still very much a testing phase, closely monitored and controlled.
With a 3.5-hour charge time on a wallbox-type AC station (or seven hours on a domestic socket) and limited pure-electric range, its unlikely that the iV would go into service in intensive-driving environments. But if successful in testing, it will still have Prime 1 status.
"Prime 1... is a sliding scale," says Yanko. "The Auckland CBD is high use, stop-start driving that's 24/7. But as you move out into urban areas you start to see a very different behaviour pattern. There are shifts and vehicles might come home at night, with downtime where they could be charged."
Skoda NZ has already supplied 70-plus vehicles to NZ Police, from an expected 350-400 for 2021; in fact, one is about to undergo its 15,000km service.
The initial contract is for 2000 cars total - such numbers are traditionally closely guarded by NZ Police, but they were cheerfully publicised by a Skoda factory press release earlier this year.
The Skoda factory is very focused on police business globally, with ten of thousands of patrol vehicles on the road in Europe. While the entire car industry is still struggling with supply in a Covid-19/semiconductor shortage world, Skoda NZ general manager Rodney Gillard says NZ Police cars are under a "Category 1" supply arrangement, meaning they take priority over dealership stock.
Testing the Superb iV does represent a bit of an about-face by NZ Police on electrified vehicles. When the Skoda contract was announced last year, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said hybrids had power efficiency and cost issues: “While incredibly promising, electric and hybrid technology are not yet a viable option for our patrol vehicles. However, we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and have outlined a 10-year plan to an emissions-free fleet.”
The Skoda Superb iV PHEV is on sale to the public, sans stickers and flashing lights, from $74,990 for the entry Style sedan, to $79,990 for the top Sportline wagon.