The GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway initiative rolls out first electric truck deliveries in the UK

  • GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway programme delivers first electric trucks to A.F. Blakemore & Son.
  • Two Volvo FM Electric trucks will save 45,000 litres of diesel and cut 120 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
  • Bedford Depot upgrades to High Power DC charging; Hitachi ZeroCarbon collects data to support future fleet decarbonisation efforts.

GRIDSERVE Electric Freightway delivers first electric trucks to A.F. Blakemore & Son.

The Electric Freightway programme, led by GRIDSERVE, has delivered its first fully electric Heavy Goods Vehicles (eHGVs) to A.F. Blakemore & Son. This marks a pivotal moment in the push to decarbonise freight transport and tackle climate change.

A.F. Blakemore & Son, the UK’s largest SPAR wholesaler, has integrated two Volvo FM Electric tractor units into its fleet. These trucks are paired with refrigerated trailers powered by sustainable Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO). These models are now operational at the company’s 175,000 sq ft Bedford Depot. This initiative aims to replace the company’s diesel-powered trucks with cleaner alternatives.

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The environmental benefits are clear. A.F. Blakemore estimates that these two electric trucks will save 45,000 litres of diesel annually and cut over 120 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The entire fleet comprises of 103 articulated units, 178 trailers, and 130 rigid HGV vehicles. 

The Bedford Depot, constructed in 2020, is a modern facility featuring separate chambers for frozen, chilled, and ambient goods. Each chamber is the height of a five-story building. The depot processes 7,000 cages of orders weekly, servicing 200 routes across southern England.

Equipped with 540kWh batteries, the Volvo FM Electric trucks offer a range of up to 185 miles. Currently, the depot uses AC charging, but GRIDSERVE plans to install High Power DC charging. This upgrade will slash charging times from several hours to under two, allowing the trucks to double shift and boost efficiency.

However, the transition to electric trucks is not without challenges. The upfront costs of these vehicles are more expensive than diesel counterparts. The Electric Freightway programme, funded by the Department for Transport and Innovate UK, aims to mitigate these costs through support and subsidies.

According to Dave Higgs, Group Compliance Officer at A.F. Blakemore:

“It’s fantastic to be part of the Electric Freightway programme, but now we have the electric trucks on our fleet, it’s about learning as much as possible from them. Initially, we worked with Volvo and our planning team to develop real-world range simulations for our routes, and we’re delighted to see our trucks already outperforming those simulations.

We are seeing battery efficiency (and range) impacted by the different weights the vehicles carry, the different areas the vehicles are operating in and, of course, driver training is going to be critical.”

Hitachi ZeroCarbon, a key partner in the Electric Freightway programme, will collect data on vehicle performance, charging infrastructure, and driver efficiency. This data will provide critical insights for future planning and business modelling.

As more electric trucks are added to A.F. Blakemore’s fleet, the company’s proactive approach will offer valuable lessons for the industry. This initiative sets a benchmark for sustainable logistics and encourages other hauliers to follow suit.

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