Flip the Fleet

We oversee a number of different contestable research, science and innovation investment funds. These support great ideas and research and while encouraging collaboration amongst our excellent researchers, teachers, innovative businesses and curious New Zealanders.

One funding program that sits in Curious Minds is the Participatory Science Platform (PSP)(external link). PSP is world-first initiative, engaging communities in locally relevant research projects which have robust science/technology outputs with quality learning outcomes.

Flip the Fleet is a nationwide project aimed at getting more Kiwis behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. More than 800 registered drivers of EVs (Electric Vehicles) and PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles), or citizen scientists as we like to call them, are participating in the project by simply uploading their cars’ performance data to the Flip the Fleet website each month. Details such as the distance drivers have travelled, the efficiency in terms of kilometres travelled per kWh (kWh is a unit of battery energy), costs of EV ownership, and how well the vehicle batteries are performing over time are analysed by Flip the Fleet, which is producing some interesting results around the benefits of owning an EV or PHEV.

The people behind the Flip the Fleet project are Henrik Moller, an ecologist and environmental sustainability scientist, and Dima Ivanov, a specialist in transport design and business analytics. Henrik and Dima felt there were a number of misconceptions about EVs that required an independent, science-based investigation, such as cost savings, environmental impact, and even looking at the practicalities of owning an EV in terms of how often batteries need to be charged.

Working alongside Henrik and Dima is statistician Daniel Myall, electric engineer Walter Larason, and EV enthusiast and co-ordinator of the Christchurch EV group Mark Nixon.

Daniel says, “For a stats lover like me, Flip the Fleet is an exciting project to be working on. It is fascinating analysing data sets from EV owners from all over New Zealand, which are debunking some of the myths around owning an EV. I look forward to more people signing up to participate in the project, so we can build a better picture of New Zealand’s EV fleet.”

Since launching in June, 2017 Flip the Fleet has made some interesting findings. A potential fault in the popular Nissan Leaf has emerged where the batteries in 30kWh version of the Nissan Leaf appears to degrade at three times the rate of the 24kWh Nissan Leaf.

Having such a rich dataset to analyse can often lead to unexpected discoveries: “We were all surprised to discover there could be an issue with the 30kWh Nissan Leaf. Degradation at this rate isn’t what you’d expect,” says Daniel. “We are finding that EVs have numerous benefits, but an accelerated decay of battery health translates to a vehicle potentially not performing as strongly.”

In New Zealand, the majority of registered Electric Vehicles are the Nissan Leaf. 14 per cent of all registered EVs are the 30kWh Nissan Leaf version. Nissan have been advised of the findings and are investigating the issue.

Flip the Fleet received funding through the Otago area PSP(external link). The project findings demonstrate the value of community based science and this is a great example of a citizen-led science project, which extends beyond crowd-sourcing, forming true partnerships between researchers and the broader community. 

You can read more about Flip the Fleet on the Curious Minds website(external link).