Waitrose begins electric van wireless charging trial

Waitrose is the first supermarket in the UK to trial a fleet of electric vehicles with wireless charging technology.

Groceries from Waitrose’s St Katherine’s Dock, London, store will be delivered to customers by electric vans equipped with the new charging technology from the start of next year.

The vans are fitted with a slim charging pad on the underside, installed by EV technology specialists Flexible Power Systems, and can recharge by parking above an electric plate, which works like a wireless mobile phone charger. The vehicles can also be plugged in to charge overnight.

Marija Rompani, director of Ethics & Sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “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.

“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.”

The move follows an ambition to end the use of fossil fuels across Waitrose’s entire transport fleet by 2030 - estimated to save 70,000 tonnes of CO2 every year.

By 2030, Waitrose will have electrified all cars, vans and light trucks, and for sectors where that is not currently possible, such as long distance heavy trucks, biomethane will be used. The supermarket will reach 340 biomethane trucks in the next few months, and by 2028 all 600 heavy trucks will be running on biomethane.

Michael Ayres, managing director of Flexible Power System, added: “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.” 

 Waitrose and Flexible Power Systems have been working together for two years on large scale simulations of EV fleet implementations to understand the impact of different vehicle choices and charger configurations. 

Software tools developed during that programme form the basis of the system being implemented at St Katherine’s Dock over the coming months.

Waitrose expects to expand the trial next year.

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