Will New Zealand’s next police cars be electric?

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Words: Matthew Hansen
14 Jan 2021

One of the biggest stories of 2020’s motoring year was Skoda winning the tender to become the New Zealand Police’s next vehicle supplier. In the wake of the announcement, one of the big questions is what the Labour Government’s declaration of a climate emergency means for the vehicles at hand.

The climate emergency declaration was followed by a pledge to replace the government’s vehicular fleet with electric cars and hybrids by 2025. Skoda doesn’t currently offer an electric car or hybrid locally. But, that’s set to change.

Speaking to NZ Autocar, Skoda New Zealand general manager Rodney Gillard confirmed that the fully electric Enyaq [pictured below] is a likely starter for New Zealand. He remained coy on whether plug-in hybrid versions of the Octavia and Superb (the latter being the vehicle that the police are set to use, in estate form) will be coming, noting that an announcement will be coming shortly.

“Enyaq is not a case of if, it’s when. We will be getting Enyaq,” he said. “[New Zealand is] definitely a pilot country. The challenge is with supply in Europe with their CO2 regulations. They’re struggling as a company to supply countries outside of Europe that don’t have a CO2 regulation. In a nutshell once the government starts pushing some buttons it will be a lot easier for us to bring that vehicle here.

“[Skoda] sees electric as a big part of New Zealand culture. They know how important it is to us. They see we’re a self-generating, hydro energy, green country. It all works for them, and it works for us.

“With regard to hybrid [Octavia and Superb], it’s exactly the same situation. It’s not a case of if, it’s when. We have got an announcement to make very soon, and we’ve got production for next year. The timing will be very interesting for us.

“What’s great about plug-in hybrid is that it’s globally classed as an electric vehicle, and because of the technology we have there is a saving of using that smaller-type electric motor and electric battery, so you get a range that’s moderate. The technology kicks in and kicks out as you’re driving, and there’s potential massive savings in fuel economy as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator and coasting.”

While plug-in hybrid Superbs aren’t yet confirmed for the local market, New Zealand’s position as a pilot country for next-gen tech means it’s likely that they will be offered here in the coming years, and could be adopted by the local police force should their fleet need to become fully electrified. While prime minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised electric vehicles during her pledges around the government fleet, she also said that hybrids will be investigated as solutions if EVs are not ‘fit for purpose’ for certain roles.

The initial order of cars on the way for local police (set to debut on Kiwi roads in April) is a Superb estate with two different engine and drivetrain combinations; a 162kW TSI turbofour front-wheel drive, and a 206kW TSI turbofour all-wheel drive. Each engine is a 2021-specification unit, meaning it aligns with the latest set of WLTP emissions regulations.

The cars will come with a unique no-leather interior; a requirement outlined by the New Zealand police. Otherwise, they are standard cars, Gillard says.

“We selected a car that had standard engines and standard suspension. What we also did was use model 2021 engines, which is part of the WLTP. We selected engines that aren’t actually available in the market today, but are in the market tomorrow. What happens with Europe is that they give us lots of engine derivatives that we can select, and we work with what’s best for the market. Other than that, there’s nothing special about the car; it was white, it had a standard interior, and it had engines available to us in the future.

“These cars, if you wanted, we could order for you today. They’re a standard car. A lot of people have asked if we had to buy these cars, were they police specific, did they have special holes in the doors and in the roof … no.

“Yes, the police cars in Europe can be specifically made, especially in the Octavia and Superb, but the police left it up to us so we decided to offer a standard car. It’s very important that the local fitment is done in New Zealand, the wiring and the lights, so there was no need to order those cars.”

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