John Lewis and Waitrose ramp up electric van ambitions as online orders boom

Pictured: An artist's impression of the larger of the two new van designs

In a first step towards new commitment, designed to spur progress towards the business’s 2050 net-zero target, John Lewis Partnership will integrate up to 1,300 pure electric vans into its fleet by the end of 2021.

According to John Lewis Partnership’s latest ethics and sustainability progress report, the new vans will reduce the business’ annual carbon footprint by 20,000 tonnes.

The vans will come in two designs – a larger model for Waitrose food deliveries and a smaller version for John Lewis deliveries.

Each van is expected to be in service for 20 years or more, as the models are designed using modular features that can be upgraded. John Lewis Partnership has dubbed this feature a “significant benefit that really adds to the sustainability of the vehicle”. EV uptake is notably outpacing the growth of battery recycling systems at present and, for all the good they do in electrifying high-emitting sectors, batteries have supply chains which are associated with the exploitation of natural resources and human rights.

“Our new electric vans are an ideal solution for home deliveries; the innovative design means they’re more efficient, but also respectful to the environment and the growing number of neighbourhoods in which we deliver,” John Lewis Partnership’s general manager of central transport Justin Laney said.

To complement the EV rollout, John Lewis Partnership is planning to increase the number of EV chargers hosted across its estate. Infrastructure will be installed to help customers and staff charge their vehicles, as well as infrastructure to serve fleet vehicles. An exact number of chargers and roadmap for delivery is yet to be published.

The business implied heavily that its decision to accelerate EV uptake was compounded to a surge in online ordering and home deliveries as a result of Covid-19. Waitrose’s rapid service, which provides customers with orders of up to 25 products within two hours, has trebled its deliveries to 7,000 per week in just a year.

Biomethane boon

Elsewhere in its fleet strategy, the retailer is striving to covert all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to run on biomethane by the end of 2028. Biomethane trucks are believed to generate just 20% of the carbon dioxide associated with traditional diesel models, on a life-cycle basis.

The ethics and sustainability progress report reveals that 14% of the Partnership’s 600-strong HGV fleet is currently biomethane-compatible. This proportion is expected to rise sharply once work is completed on a biomethane refuelling station at the firm’s Bracknell headquarters later this year.

John Lewis Partnership’s director of corporate responsibility Benet Northcote last year provided edie with more in-depth insight around the firm’s biomethane strategy. He told of how it helped the business shift to a lifecycle approach in decision-making and how the Partnership is encouraging other businesses – even if they are competitors – to follow suit in adopting low-carbon road transport innovations.

Other businesses incorporating biomethane trucks into the fleets include Asda and Kuehne + Nagel.

Sarah George

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