U-turn on electric vehicles: Cook Islands Government retains unsold vehicles due to lack of bids

PHOTO: Cook Islands News/ Facebook

Cook Islands Government will retain and distribute eight electric vehicles (EVs) it previously tried to sell due to lack of bids likely caused by affordability concerns. 

These eight EVs were part of a larger purchase of 25 Hyundai Ioniq electric cars acquired for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting held in Rarotonga last November at a cost of $1.7 million (US$1.2 million). 

While 17 vehicles were allocated to replace aging government vehicles, the remaining eight were offered for sale by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) late last year. 

However, “none of the EVs were sold during the tender process,” confirmed Financial Secretary Garth Henderson in a statement, following inquiries from Cook Islands News. 

Henderson said the Government then decided to retain and distribute electric vehicles across its agencies. 

“Given the governments ageing fleet and constrained budget for vehicle replacements, a decision has been made to retain the EVs and distribute them across government agencies requiring vehicle support to sustain core business and delivery operations,” Henderson said. 

“In this way, Government will continue to lead the way in its continued efforts towards clean green transportation and lowering vehicle emissions.” 

According to the statement, the EVs for sale, the Hyundai IONIQ Electric 38.2kW Entry models, are well known for their eco-friendly design, energy-efficient performance, spaciousness and comfort, and excellent fast-charging capability. 

The EVs were being sold by MFEM on an “as is, where is” basis. To purchase an EV, a reserve price of $45,294.00(US$27,774.44) (exclusive of VAT) was set. 

“This reduced price offered great value for money, with similar medium-sized EVs selling in the $50,000(US$30,663) to $100,000(US$61,321) price range. In comparison, the more well-known Nissan Leaf EV, is presently selling in the $60,000(US$36,796)-price range,” Henderson said. 

Feedback from interested buyers indicated affordability concerns and had expectations that the reserve price would be lower, as reasons for not submitting bids. 

“Notwithstanding comments that the EVs ‘are great cars to operate and no issues with them being electric and charging from home’, and ‘having Pickering Motors readily available to service and do diagnostic work is a bonus’ – the key issue was financial position/affordability. 

“To date, Pickering Motors Ltd, Cook Islands have provided professional and readily available service for the EVs. Pickering have the requisite diagnostic tools and expertise to resolve mechanical and technical issues, but also work closely with Hyundai to resolve these matters if and as they arise.” 

Henderson also clarified there were seven charging ports available for use around the island. 

“By way of information and contrary to newspaper reports, when all of the EVs were originally purchased, seven charging stations were also procured to complement the use of the EVs. The purchase of the charging stations was always a part of the EV acquisition plan. 

“For convenience, these charging stations were sited where the Pacific Leaders were staying. After the Forum, two of the charging stations were added to TAU’s public charging stations and made available for public use. Another two were installed at the Te Atukura Grounds in Avarua, unfortunately these are not yet available for public use. 

“Plans are in progress to relocate and install the remaining three charging stations.” 

The purchase of the vehicles was overseen by MFEM after an expression of interest process was completed, followed by a “competitive” quote processing, including local suppliers to tender their bids, with Hyundai Motors NZ Ltd being awarded the tender.