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''Flip the Fleet'' is a citizen science coalition of families and businesses that drive electric vehicles (EVs) in New Zealand.
It aims to help people make informed decisions about EVs by providing and sharing reliable scientific data about the constraints and benefits of such vehicles.
''We want to spread the word about electric vehicles, based on the analysis of information provided by owners and users,'' Dunedin man Henrik Moller, one of the system's designers said yesterday.
Ecologist and environmental sustainability scientist, emeritus Prof Moller and PowerStats company owner Dima Ivanov, the men who conceived, designed and tested the system, are both passionate electric vehicle owners.
But they were not uncritical electric vehicle advocates, Prof Moller said.
When he and his wife bought their EV a year ago, they were ''about number seven or nine'' in Otago. Now there were about 150 registered EVs in the province, 114 of them in Dunedin, 30 in Central Otago and three in North Otago.
Because of its topography, Otago had ''a range of challenges in using EVs'', and the data collection programme was intended to help those individuals and organisations already using the vehicles.
The Dunedin City Council had four EVs which had been involved in testing the Flip the Fleet software. In total 55 vehicles in the city had been involved in the test ''and we want to build on that'', Prof Moller said.
He described the people who had been ''test-driving'' the software as ''patient and friendly - but strong'' critics.
Flip the Fleet was designed to gather as much similar data as possible from EV owners across New Zealand and collate it into one big pool ''for some serious analysis''.
It was ''a whole package'' involving software, emails and networking with participants.
The details could be used to expand into a pool database for participating EV owners.
Comparisons could be made about financial savings, fuel savings in a hybrid, electricity used, return on investment and the amount of greenhouse gases avoided.
''They get immediate feedback. It's like Fitbit for a car,'' Prof Moller said.
''The real experts in New Zealand are those who've been using EVs and gathering data from that use. Flip the Fleet is a way to share their knowledge with others who own an EV or are thinking of getting one.''
-By Kay Sinclair