SOUTH AFRICA – South African grocery retailer Woolworths, has rolled out use of electric panel vans for its food delivery service in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The initiative which will see the retailer power 70% of its fleet with electricity is set to reduce its carbon emissions by 700 000kg annually.

 It is undertaken in partnership with transport and logistics company DSV and electric vehicle and charging technology business Everlectric.

The rollout which will take place over the next 18 months, follows a 10-month trial and is aligned with the group’s goals to ensure all is energy requirements will be from renewable sources by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

“Last year we announced bold new sustainability goals and ambitions, which included the goal to have zero nett carbon emissions by 2040 so 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,” says Liz Hillock, Woolworths head of online and mobile.

She added, “Over the last three years we have invested over R1bn in our digital capabilities, providing new and innovative experiences to meet the evolving needs of our customer as well as differentiate our services which has resulted in an exponential growth of online sales.

“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.”

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.

“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.

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.

“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.

Another business that is testing electric mobility as an option for its service in South Africa is e-hailing company Bolt.

In June last year, Bolt Food partnered with Cape Town’s Pathway Cycles in an electric bicycle pilot that could see food delivery couriers boosting their income, reducing the service’s impact on the environment, and changing the way fleet owners work with delivery platforms.

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