SEE | Woolworths to replace majority of its delivery fleet with electric vans

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An electric delivery vehicle being charged.
An electric delivery vehicle being charged.
  • Woolworths intends to roll out electric delivery vans in Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town.
  • With 70% of the retailer's fleet powered by electricity, it will save 700 000kg of carbon emissions annually.
  • Woolworths will power the electric panel vans with renewable energy and strategically located charging stations.

Woolworths is rolling out electric panel vans to do deliveries for its online business, this will reduce the retailer's carbon emissions by 700 000kg annually.

The retailer made the announcement on Monday, a day after World Environment Day, following a 10-month trial. The initiative is a partnership with transport and logistics company DSV and electric vehicle and charging technology business Everlectric. It is aligned with the group's goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The electric panel vans will deliver to customers in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban. About 70% of Woolworths' fleet will be powered by electricity. The trial showed this would save 700 000kg of tailpipe carbon emissions that would have come from exhaust pipes.

"We are very much looking forward to being the first retailer in South Africa to embark on such an extensive rollout of electric panel vans to support our growing online business," said Liz Hillock, Woolworths head of online and mobile.

The rollout will take place over the next 18 months.

"This latest investment in electric panel vans, enables us to continue to grow our online business and deliver the Woolies difference, but with a lower carbon footprint," Hillock added.

Woolworths intends to power the vans with renewable electricity sources as much as it can. It will use solar power at DSV and additional chargers at strategic Woolworths store locations.

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"We will work closely with DSV and Everlectric to plan, position and negotiate the installation of these charging stations to leverage off existing renewable or solar installations co-located at the selected malls or retail locations," Hillock said.

An electric van being charged using Everlectric's
An electric van being charged using Everlectric's charging port.

The retailer will also work with DSV, Everlectric and an audit firm to procure Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), in cases where they cannot guarantee renewable energy recharging. These certificates are used to certify that the power drawn from the national grid is in fact green - it tracks the power produced from the source right up to use by consumers.

Woolworths explained that the RECs certify that the bearer owns one megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable energy resource. The renewable energy producer will feed energy to the grid, and can sell an REC which will be bought by a user like Everlectric, via a trusted third party - the audit firm, in this case Deloitte. "These RECs are then utilised to offset the residual carbon emissions from the portion of electricity that is used from the Eskom grid, where solar charging was not possible," Woolworths said.

The electric vans will be rolled out over 18 month
The electric vans will be rolled out over 18 months, and will be recharged with solar energy where possible.

"We see the global renewable energy and electric vehicle trends manifesting, and we know that it is only a matter of time before the existing internal combustion engine vehicles are replaced by EVs (electric vehicles) due to their enhanced efficiencies and economic benefits," said Ndia Magadagela, Everlectric CEO.

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