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THE FEV PROJECT
FRANKENSTEIN ELECTRIC VEHICLE

UPCYCLE FOR GOOD  

The MDA Group of companies is undertaking an ambitious project to produce an electric fleet of vehicles that is not only fit for purpose but also reduces our footprint on Papatuanuku (Earth Mother).

 

While electric vehicles provide a carbon-zero solution for emissions when in use, their production cost can be double the CO2 emissions of a similar internal-combustion-engine vehicle.

 

We are combating this particular issue by giving vehicles a second life, taking appropriate Recipient Vehicles, finding electric Donor Vehicles that are no longer roadworthy, and creating a Frankenstein Electric Vehicle (FEV).

We'll be detailing the build as we undertake this awesome project. Check in regularly to this page to see our progress, or keep an eye on our Insta and FB profiles for updates.

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29 APRIL 2024: HERE'S AN IDEA.....​

 

Back in 2019, we had put in motion a Fleet Policy that included raising the average age of vehicles to a maximum of 10 years (the previous concession holder for a transport route we now operate had vehicles that were 20-30 years old, upgrading to more efficient vehicles and beginning and electrification programme. However the pandemic that began in 2020 forced our group to halt asset investments in the interest of retaining as many staff as possible with no loss of income. While we were able to not only retain all our staff with no redundancies at full pay, our Fleet Policy was stretched to it's absolute limit with the electrification planning unfortunately left to gather dust.

 

Fast forward to 2024 and with a more stabilised visitor market and the recognition that we all need to be doing more for Papatuanuku, our attention has once again turned to an electrification programme for our fleet of around 20 vehicles. To kick off this ambitious project, we met with our good friend Ra Cleave. Ra is a bit of a mad scientist who seems to thrive with outside-the-box thinking, crazy ideas, and creating solutions that are for the betterment of our planet. The FEV Programme looks like it's going ahead.

 

07 MAY 2024: THE PILOT PROGRAMME


After a few catch ups it was time to head in to the forest to see where our first FEV would be operating, the Whakarewarewa Forest. The plan is to build an electric 4WD ute that is used as part of the Mountain Bike Rotorua Private 4WD Charter fleet.

After taking our existing vehicle (Toyota Landcruiser) out to test and assess things like terrain difficulty and fuel consumption it was time to try Ra's own FEV, a 1970's Mazda Bongo, for a drive in the forest. 

 

With mountain bikers loaded and a computer attached, the team went out collected data to better understand power consumption and what can be expected on a typical work day for our fleet vehicles. We were also collecting information on what regeneration we could achieve when descending the hills. Whakarewarewa Forest vehicles are speed limited to 30kmph so what we found was that we could really dial up the regeneration ability of the Mazda when descending which had a few positive effects; more energy recovery and with the increased resistance the regeneration function acted like an engine brake which not only helped control our speed but will also, ultimately, save on brake wear and tear.

 

This was a great day out and we learnt lots by doing practical testing in the actual operational environment. It was now time for Ra to go and research the data he collected to start formulating a plan.

18 MAY 2024: NEXT GEN FLEET

Mountain Bike Rotorua Shuttles was now in to the next stages of fleet upgrades with the first of the new Private 4WD Charter vehicles purchased, a 2016 Ford Ranger certified with a 4inch suspension lift, 2 inch body lift, 3 inch tire size increase... basically every kids dream truck. The Toyota Landcruiser's could now be moved on and we could get to trialling the Ford Rangers as our new "Battle Waka" vehicles. This Ranger receives it's new nickname, Taniwha Waka.

One of the reasons we chose this particular make and model of vehicle is because they are very, very common here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This means that there are an abundance of parts available, many of the issues that they have are well known and are relatively easily identified and solved, and because of the chassis set up, there is a very solid platform to build an FEV on.

As a side note, after a bit of number crunching of the data that was collected while out testing the Mazda Bongo, Ra had found that when the regeneration capacity was increased during descents after a shuttle uplift, we were able to recover about 1/3 of the energy used to get up the hill. Our FEV may not get that much recovery as we'll be converting a much more complex drive train (to retain the 4WD capability). However it will still significantly improve the wear on brake pads which is most definitely a positive outcome.

12 JUNE 2024: TANIWHA WAKA

After a month of operations with the Taniwha Waka it was clear that not only would this work, but visitors were drawn to it and loved the charter experience. Now it was time to shop and find another Ford Ranger to become the Recipient Vehicle.

17 JUNE 2024: THE RV FOR OUR FEV THAT WOULD RECEIVE PARTS FROM A DV..... LOL


We found ourselves a suitable FEV recipient. A 2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak!

 

The Recipient Vehicle for our FEV was chosen as it is similar to our existing fleet vehicles but has an aging engine that is showing signs of being near the end of its life.

Our Donor Vehicle at this point is likely to be a Nissan Leaf.  In discussions with Ra there is a key element to the Nissan EV set up that really appeals to us compared to Tesla's and BYD's. The Nissan Leaf battery, while much smaller than the other makers, makes for an excellent option for up-cycling as, unlike the other brands, we are able to relatively easily replace cells. This significantly reduces our footprint as we will be able to get more life out of each battery.

Like the Ford Ranger, there is also an abundance of Nissan Leaf vehicles and part in New Zealand.