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Gisborne airport first for electric EkoCabs

The country's first fleet of fully electric taxis will now run on Tairawhiti roads, after EkoCabs launched its three electric vehicles at Gisborne Airport yesterday.

EkoCabs is an eco-friendly taxi company started by Tayo Agunlejika and Ayo Oyawale in Wellington in the first nationwide lockdown last year.

“Through EkoCabs, we are modelling what an electric taxi fleet can look like — how it can operate and how it can benefit both drivers and customers,” EkoCabs co-founder Mr Agunlejika said.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz did the honours at yesterday's launch of cutting the ribbon around the new Hyundai IONIQ vehicles.

“I am delighted that Gisborne will be the first regional airport where EkoCabs will be rolled out,” she said.

“We are a region of ‘firsts' and we welcome any initiative that contributes to our goal of greater environmental sustainability.”

While the cab company first started in the capital, co-founder Mr Oyawale says Gisborne is the first region to have fully electric cars. In Wellington some drivers had to transition from hybrid to electric after their former employer Green Cabs closed down.

“We always knew that we had to expand out of Wellington as far as the vision for EkoCabs went,” he said.

The co-founder says Gisborne was the preferred choice because the initiative would have a bigger, better and quicker impact in the region than other cities such as Christchurch and Auckland.

Mr Oyawale also credited the efforts taken by the Eastland Group to welcome the company and its shared value of sustainability.

The Group, which operates Gisborne Airport, is a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition.

Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd welcomed the option for electric transport.

“As a business we've supported the uptake of EVs in Tairāwhiti by installing a region-wide network of EV chargers, and by ensuring our own fleet of non-commercial vehicles is electric,” he said.

Mr Todd said the company's launch was another positive step towards a zero-carbon future for Tairāwhiti.

Mr Oyawale said among all the stakeholders and partners that they had engaged over the year, Eastland Group had been the most proactive.

“After all we are having the launch at the airport, not a conference room in a motel,” he said.

The other significant connection for the launch was Gisborne cab driver Chris Lankshear.

In March Mr Lankshear attended the taxi federation conference and met the founders of EkoCab.

“We got talking and found things in common. It was only a matter of time to find the right time to launch here,” he said.

With 30 years of driving experience behind him, and now as an EkoCab employee he says the change to electric cabs enabled the people to do the right thing.

Mr Oyowale said electric was the future and the responsible way.

In a week when the government had started consulting on New Zealand's Emissions Reduction Plan, the Minister of Transport Michael Wood said it was encouraging to have EkoCabs getting on with the job.

“It's great to see the private sector stepping up to the challenge of decarbonising transport and EkoCabs has thrown down the gauntlet for other operators across New Zealand,” he said.

Co-founder Mr Agunlejika said as well as the environmental side, the company would also look forward to contributing to the community at large.

“We believe we can use this platform to create a pathway to have more people employed and that's one of our dreams and future thinking,” he said.

The company has already invested $250,000 to reach this stage, and expects to further invest in its fleet, hoping to expand to 10 EVs by next Easter.

The EVs are available to book or hail at Gisborne Airport from now, ahead of what is hoped to be a busy summer season.

TAKING OFF: EkoCabs' fully electric fleet of taxis launched at Gisborne Airport yesterday. Pictured from left are co-founder Tayo Agunlejika, owner operators Sara Tari, David Lawrie and Chris Lankshear, and Ayo Oyawale (co-founder). Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. OTUNBA THE VENERABLE OLUFEMI OYAWALE, rtd, Ile-Oluji, Ondo State, Nigeria says:

    Super. The ecosystem will be the better for it, and quality, safe, and fast transportation would be guaranteed.
    Wish Messrs Agunlejika and Mr Oyawale the best, in Jesus Christ’s name.