Woolworths charges ahead as home delivery fleet goes electric

Sydneysiders who order home delivery from Woolworths in coming weeks might see an electric truck arrive at their doorstep.

Australia’s largest supermarket has added 27 electric vehicles to its delivery fleet of more than 3000 vehicles, with chief executive Brad Banducci saying the company aims to electrify all its trucks by 2030.

“Our home delivery trucks are a familiar sight in neighbourhoods across Australia, and within the next seven years, we want to make every one of them electric, and free of fossil fuels,” he said on Thursday.

“The case for a low carbon future has never been clearer, and we’re backing a better tomorrow for our communities and the planet by starting the transition now.”

EVs will first begin delivering groceries across Sydney, with suburbs like Sutherland, St George and the inner west slated to be the test areas.

The trucks will operate out of warehouses in Mascot and Caringbah.

The trucks are manufactured by SAIC and Foton Motor, and have new technology that refrigerates products with power drawn from the vehicle’s battery, Woolworths said.

Call for Coles and Aldi to act

Greenpeace Australia welcomed Woolworths’ move, calling it a significant step towards the decarbonisation of transport, which is a key part of achieving net-zero carbon emissions nationally.

The group’s Asia Pacific senior campaigner Violette Snow said Coles and Aldi should follow suit, and unveil plans to electrify their own delivery fleets over the next few years.

“As the world looks to zero emissions, Woolworths is showing how businesses can play a vital role in addressing the climate crisis – by rapidly reducing emissions, setting new standards in sustainability,” Ms Snow said.

“At a time of climate crisis, every business must now be a ‘climate business’. We must accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels and rapidly transition to clean, renewable energy sources.”

Woolworths is the first major grocery chain in Australia to adopt electric vehicles, but internationally other giants like Amazon are pursuing it, too.

Research shows such moves are vital if Australia hopes to phase out fossil fuel-powered cars and achieve net zero by 2050.

Analysis by Sydney-based logistics firm Adiona Tech in May found that converting 10 delivery trucks to electric is equivalent to 56 families switching away from internal combustion engines.

That’s because delivery trucks travel six times further each year, on average, than passenger vehicles, using 40 times as much fuel and producing 50 times as much carbon, Adiona found.

Constraints on target

But Adiona founder Richard Savoie fears Woolworths faces an uphill battle to electrify its fleet over the next seven years.

He warned the supermarket giant will have a tough time sourcing the vehicles it needs to electrify its fleet, with Australia’s lax fuel efficiency standards holding back the availability and number of high-tech trucks.

“I applaud Woolworths for being the first grocery store in this space to make a hard commitment. That said, the deck is stacked somewhat against them,” he said.

“Even a big corporation like Woolworths has very little choice in EVs and a very limited number of partners to build the charging networks they need.”

Mr Savoie warned that federal government plans to introduce new laws regulating fuel efficiency could take years to have an effect on what EVs are available.

Mr Savoie said that while the federal government has committed to mandatory fuel standards that will help drive more EV models into Australia, it could take years for manufacturers to change their behaviour.

Even Mr Banducci appeared cognisant of how much work is to come on Thursday, telling Nine newspapers that 27 electric trucks is “still not very many”.

Key constraints include needing trucks that can make more than a dozen deliveries a day, all while powering their onboard refrigerators.

“You really get to see the challenges writ large when you try to scale it up,” Mr Banducci said.

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