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Pods made from recycled plastic bottles highlight greener future for home delivery sector

28 May 2020 #Features & Interviews #TNB News

This month a British engineering company Penso launched a new range of ultra-lightweight bodies for 3.5-tonne commercial vehicles carefully designed to tackle some of the key issues facing last-mile logistics fleets, namely: reducing carbon footprint and, today more than ever before, increasing customer demand.

Coventry-based Penso unveiled its ‘Blue Ocean Delivery Pods’, so called to reflect the 5,000 recycled plastic bottles used to manufacture each pod, thereby helping to the reduce the volume of plastic waste.

Penso has gone to great lengths to make their product sustainable. In the mix, the company sought to make the pods aerodynamic, light and recyclable.

The pods have been configured for a 3.5-tonne medium wheelbase, front-wheel-drive, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Its lighter weight, aerodynamic design, helps with fuel efficiency driving down diesel usage by about 30%, thereby also reducing emissions.

When mounted to a fully-electric LCV chassis, the lightweight body structure and aerodynamics will help to greatly increase battery range.

After a decade, either on a single chassis or following a vehicle swap after five years, more than 95% of the structure can be recycled, including the carbon fibre, aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used to make the pods.

Daniel Hurcombe, Manging Director of Penso, explains: “Home delivery fleets face multiple challenges, including how they reduce their carbon footprint, cope with driver shortages and increase the number of delivery slots they can offer in a market faced with increasing legislation and fleet electrification. What we’ve done at Penso is create a solution which can deliver tangible benefits in all of these areas.”

It was a bold launch from the company that has worked with some of the biggest brands in the aerospace and automotive sectors, including on projects with Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover, and even on the construction of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers. It has brought its advanced experience to commercial vehicle bodybuilding in a move that could transform the home delivery sector.

So, is this the shape of things to come for the commercial vehicle sector as the trend of alternatively fuelled vehicles grows?

The reality is the work has already started. The CV sector has enthusiastically embraced cleaner technologies. Not a week goes by without a van or truck manufacturer launching a battery electric vehicle, or a plug-in hybrid, or of news of a scheme to introduce more hydrogen-fuelled transport into the sector.

In fact, the delivery companies that are household names in the UK, appear to have this at the heart of their agenda, and never has this been more important following the COVID-19 crisis where it has become abundantly clear that our society will have a greater reliance on home deliveries.

Improved air quality has been an unintended effect of the nationwide lockdown, but online retailers and supermarkets will need to continue to reassure that they are doing their bit to ensure we breathe cleaner air as people begin coming back to work in full swing.

Ocado, for example, has recently introduced a number of fully electric delivery vehicles into its London fleet and plans to further expand its zero-emission fleet in the near-future while also trialling hybrid vehicles for more remote areas during 2020. It also runs a number of HGVs powered by natural gas and also plans to expand this fleet.

A spokesman for Ocado told the TNB, “We take reducing our van emissions significantly and are constantly working to lower these. Our vans are the lightest home delivery vehicle in our sector meaning that each one can use less fuel and can carry more shopping so our fleet can be as carbon efficient as possible.

“We optimise our delivery routes to help reduce the overall emissions of our vehicles on the roads. Customers can choose a ‘greener’ delivery slot, marked by a green van symbol on the slot booking page.

“This allows them to time their delivery to when an Ocado van is already in their local area, helping reduce overall van mileage and emissions between delivery drops.”

The supermarkets do appear to be taking the issues seriously, with Waitrose looking to ensure its fleet is net zero as soon as possible.

A spokesman said, “Our commitment to the environment means the year 2050 is the latest we will make our entire operations net zero carbon. However, all our transport fleet will achieve this by 2045 and our heavy goods vehicles will be switched to low-carbon biomethane by 2028, cutting emissions by more than 80 per cent. We will also continue to invest in electric vans and renewable energy.”

Meanwhile Amazon is also keen to stress its green credentials.

An Amazon spokesman informed the TNB “In 2019 Amazon announced the order of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles, with vans starting to deliver packages to customers this year.

“Amazon plans to have 10,000 of the new electric vehicles on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles on the road globally by 2030 – saving 4 million metric tons of carbon per year by 2030.”

The spokesman continued, “Across Europe, our delivery fleet comprises hundreds of low-pollution electric and natural gas vans and cars, and we are using e-cargo bikes for deliveries in some urban centres.

“Amazon has almost 300 charging stations at our facilities for our partners to use, with plans to add hundreds more this year to support sustainable deliveries. With “Shipment Zero” we aim to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments by 2030.”

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