Author: Lauren Foye, Head of Reports at Zero Carbon Academy
Several major retailers have announced roll-out of electric HGVs & associated infrastructure in Great Britain, following a UK government push to transition towards net zero road freight emissions.
UK’s Electric HGV roll-out now up and running
The new year has seen a flurry of announcements by retailers, outlining their plans to introduce new vehicles which will cut emissions, and surprisingly it is only recently that the first electric heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were seen on UK roads. Supermarket giant Tesco previously launched the first fully electric HGVs in the UK in December 2021, adding two DAF vehicles to make trips to transport goods from a rail freight terminal in Cardiff to the company’s hub in Magor, an estimated 30 miles away. With each vehicle able to travel 100 miles on one full charge, the vehicles are expected to make circa 65,000 miles of haulage journeys otherwise made by diesel vehicles, cutting an estimated 87.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year[i].
We are now seeing other retailers follow suit. Notably e-commerce giant Amazon is adding five electric HGVs to its delivery fleet for the first time in the UK. These fully electric vehicles will operate from the business’s fulfilment centres in Tilbury and Milton Keynes, and like Tesco, will replace diesel HGVs. Amazon believes that this change will result in up to 100,000 annual road miles being fuelled using renewable electricity rather than diesel, preventing 170 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted. They are the first of nine electric HGVs expected by the end of 2022, joining more than 1,000 electric delivery vans currently on the road in the UK. The move by Amazon marks an important milestone towards its European plan for ‘Shipment Zero’: the company’s goal to deliver 50% of shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030.
“We’re committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2040, and this is a milestone as we continue to decarbonise our transportation network so we can deliver more customer orders using zero emissions vehicles,” -John Boumphrey, Amazon UK Country Manager[ii]
The move comes as DHL announces that it has added 270 more pure electric vans to its delivery fleet to replace diesel vehicles, increasing on the 50 e-vans it rolled out in 2021. The new Ford E Transit four-tonners will join the fleet from September 2022 in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Internet Retailing.net reports that the distribution centres in these cities will also being equipped with charging infrastructure. DHL Express’s fleet director Richard Crook was quoted as saying:
“We’re thrilled to be sharing another update on our journey to a fully electric fleet. We’re extremely proud of the progress made so far in reducing the environmental impact of our fleet, and this next stage of roll-out is a positive step towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”[iii]
Infrastructure and alternative fuels also see interest
UK retailers are also showing investment and innovation around the running and operations of their delivery fleet. Supermarket Sainsbury’s is set to deploy smart charging for its latest fleet of electric refrigerated delivery lorry trailers. The trailers, which were successfully trialled last year, run their chiller units from batteries, rather than from diesel generators and it is hoped they will save 20 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum. The supermarket chain is now working on a smart charging system that will allow the batteries in these trailers to be charged from low-carbon energy sources as well as charging over-night. [iv] Amazon is also seeking to implement the latest innovations in battery technology, adopting first-of-their-kind fast 360 kW electric charging points for their new electric HGV fleet at Tilbury and Milton Keynes.
Developments follow a push by UK government to move towards net zero emissions
It’s clear to see why traditional diesel HGV’s are being phased out. In the UK almost a fifth (19%) of emissions created by the transport sector in 2019 were attributable to HGVS[v] The UK government has already made reducing road freight emissions a target, announcing £20 million in funding to boost the UK’s transition to zero emission road freight in July last year.
At the time, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“Through our bold and ambitious transport decarbonisation plan, we’re leading the way in the transition to zero emission vehicles by becoming the first country in the world to commit to ending the sale of all new fossil-fuelled road vehicles by 2040, subject to consultation. From Doncaster to Scotland, by working in partnership with industry, this funding will allow us to better understand the role of zero emission HGVs while levelling up the industry and boosting regional economies.”[vi]
It is hoped that these funds will go towards supporting industry and creating jobs. Particularly, it will help accelerate the move from trials to widespread operational use. For the UK to achieve its zero carbon targets, industry will need confidence that moving to electric vehicles for haulage will make operational sense. The combination of support from government and evidence from successful use by companies like Amazon, DHL, Sainsbury’s and Tesco could provide just the drive that the industry needs.
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