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HomeDairyElectric milk tanker a ‘world-first’?
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Electric milk tanker a ‘world-first’?

Renowned global dairy nutrition firm, Fonterra, has taken the wraps off what it regards as New Zealand’s first electric milk tanker.

The vehicle is “about” the same size as a regular tanker, has a range of approximately 140kms on a full charge and takes approximately three hours to change.

Furthermore, the company says the milk tanker will operate at 46T (gross vehicle mass) with the trailer and has a capacity to carry 28,000 litres.

However, it says that because the ‘truck’ part of the tanker is slightly heavier with the battery, it may carry around 2,300L of milk less.

The tanker – which took 36 days to build – is one of several programmes as part of the co-op’s journey towards becoming a leader in sustainability.

Electric milk tanker

Changes to the battery configuration have given the team an opportunity to trial other additions to:

  • Reduce the amount of work required to customise a Fonterra tanker;
  • Improve milk collection efficiencies;
  • Reduce safety concerns.

It is installing a battery swap system at the Waitoa site to base Milk-E to trial how this could work within a fleet to minimise downtime from battery charging.

The vehicle has newly designed doors that open out sideways with minimal moving parts, resulting in improved safety.

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Meanwhile, an electric pump on the driver’s side has reduced the pipework on the truck by 3.4m, reducing tare weight.

The milk hose now falls naturally back across the truck guards and secures onto a Bayonet connection. This locks the hose in place and seals the end of the hose in transit.

The need for a hydraulic tank and pump has been removed and replaced with a fully electric motor, and a pump.

Named by one of its farmers, Stephen Todd from Murchison, Milk-E, which could possibly be a world-first, is part of Fonterra’s fleet decarbonisation work.


In a statement, Chief Operating Officer, Fraser Whineray, said:

“Right across the co-op, our teams are constantly looking at how we can decrease our emissions. This ranges from on-farm to at our sites and throughout our transport network.”

“Being a New Zealand first, there has been a lot of creative thinking and Kiwi ingenuity to bring Milk-E to life.”

“It has been great to see the team turn challenges into opportunities. In addition to trialling Milk-E’s on-road ability, we are also trialling a new electric pump, hose configuration and cabinetry.”

EECA Group Manager Investment and Engagement, Nicki Sutherland, said:

“We are pleased to see this project come to life. New Zealand has ambitious targets to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. Transport is key, but heavy freight has proven hard to decarbonise.”

“If successful, this project could be replicated across several New Zealand businesses.”

The electric milk tanker will operate out of Fonterra’s Waitoa site, which Mr Whineray says is “very fitting”.

He says this is because it was the site of New Zealand’s largest fleet of electric milk trucks one century ago.

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