Going green with Think Blue Waikato

If you had to pick one colour that best represents the Waikato, you’d probably opt for green – as in dairy pasture and forestry.

But now people there are being asked to “Think Blue Waikato”.

So what’s this all about? Think Blue Waikato is a group of businesses, local bodies and community groups who have committed to a “greener” and more sustainable Waikato by taking part in a minimum one-year electric vehicle trial.

Ebbett Volkswagen is behind the idea, using VW’s global “Think Blue” concept which encourages people to act in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way, particularly when it comes to their vehicles and everyday life. Blue is also the colour for electricity – as used, coincidentally, by Waikato’s WEL Networks for its growing number of EV chargers around the region.
So when the Hamilton-based Ebbett Group team got six VW e-Golf electric cars, they decided that rather than just sell them all they’d give businesses the option of leasing them under their Think Blue Waikato partnership. That way the partners could showcase the benefits of using an EV to staff and others, especially from a sustainability viewpoint.

Ebbett Volkswagen dealer principal Richard van den Engel says it’s good for businesses to be seen as green (or blue in this case) and early movers. He says many people want to try electric but are
unsure about where to start. “This a better way,” van den Engel says. Each business agrees to lease an e-Golf for at least a year and then tells their story on the website www.thinkbluewaikato.co.nz
– “warts and all”. “The interest has been incredible, particularly as people have different reasons for getting around and they realise its environmentally friendly, sustainable and the right thing to do.”

Richard van den Engel, front, and Gareth Nuzum from IT Partners.

After getting agreement from IT Partners, the first partner business to join Think Blue Waikato, van den Engel says word quickly got around IT Partner’s workplace. “For the next 24 hours, everybody in the building couldn’t talk about anything else, saying they’re proud to work for an organisation that takes sustainability seriously.” He says those involved then go on to tell their mates it’s a good place in which to work. Some don’t quite understand but get involved and then see the spinoffs, van den Engel says. Think Blue Waikato encourages those apprehensive about going into electric vehicles to “dip their toes in the water and commit to a more sustainable workplace”, he says. “It’s a safe environment to test what’s new.” Questions such as costs around charging, range anxiety, what happens if the car runs out of electricity, whether a charging station should be installed at work, and if someone takes the car home then who pays for the power – can all be answered.

“Most of the partners use their e-Golf as a pool car and people charge them at home,” van den Engel says. He’s delighted with the way the Think Blue Waikato project is going.

Most of the partners say they joined with the aim of being more sustainable and to reduce emissions and their environmental impact. They see benefits including reduced costs (fuel, maintenance)
and all encourage others to get on board with EVs. Ebbett Volkswagen marketing manager Amy van Garderen tried the e-Golf between work and home on most occasions. She found it very quiet, responsive in acceleration and smooth to drive. She wasn’t concerned about range (the e-Golf has about a 220km real-world range) and she was impressed with its regenerative braking recapturing some of the power. The e-Golf’s lease cost is only marginally more than the equivalent petrol-powered Golf, but van den Engel says it’s the green aspect of the Think Blue Waikato scheme that counts.

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