Upmarket UK retailer Waitrose & Partners is testing electric vans equipped with wireless charging technology for delivering goods to customers.
Funded by Innovate UK, the pilot is being conducted in Waitrose's St Katharine's Dock store in London.
The trial builds on a deployment with the City of Edinburgh Council and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, funded by the UK Government's Office for Low-Emission Vehicles through its innovation agency Innovate UK, Waitrose added.
The new vans require no cables and can be charged by simply connecting to a metal plate on the ground - much like modern smartphones charging on a flat charging plate.
The move follows the retailer's pledge to end the use of fossil fuels across Waitrose's entire transport fleet by 2030, which is estimated to save 70,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, and comes as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 Climate Conference.
'The Important Switch To Electric Vans'
Transport minister, Trudy Harrison, commented, "I am thrilled to see Waitrose leading the way by making the important switch to electric vans, offering green deliveries to thousands of customers, as we accelerate towards a net-zero future.
"This Government has committed £2.5 billion towards electric vehicle grants and infrastructure and I am delighted to hear that Flexible Power Systems have been able to develop this cutting edge wireless charging technology with the help of DfT funding."
The technology has been installed by EV technology specialists, Flexible Power Systems, which also equips the store with a cloud-based smart charging system designed for home delivery.
Managing director of Flexible Power Systems, Michael Ayres, said, "Companies like Waitrose have to electrify their fleets to combat climate change. At the same time, they have to fulfil customers' needs as efficiently as possible, and the growth in home delivery seen during the pandemic is here to stay.
"This project is about testing technologies that can save time and cost, particularly wireless charging, which has the potential to save time spent charging between deliveries to make the process more efficient and convenient for customers, as well as retailers."
Over the coming months, the vehicles will be delivering groceries from the St Katherine's Dock Waitrose store in London and the service is expected to be expanded in the near future.
Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership, commented, "Before the pandemic, we were taking 60,000 orders a week - we're now doing well over 200,000 orders. That uplift in demand for grocery deliveries means that prioritising an electric fleet is more important than ever, particularly as world leaders meet at COP26 to discuss how we lower global emissions."
"We've already committed to electric vans and have created a new biomethane gas filling station too, which is helping to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. We continue to look for new innovative ways to cut our emissions even further, as well as bring in the latest technology. Being the first to trial this new wireless charging technology is both exciting and another example of our ambition to show leadership in this space."
By 2030, the retailer plans to operate only electric cars, vans and light trucks. It will switch to biomethane-fuelled vehicles for sectors where it is not currently possible, such as long-distance heavy trucks.
The company aims to roll out 340 biomethane trucks in the next few months, and by 2028 all 600 heavy trucks will be running on biomethane. [Photo Courtesy: John Robertson for Waitrose]