Sainsbury’s celebrates first supermarket with fully-electric fleet

Image: Sainsbury's

The news comes in the same week that a coalition of fleet operators, including Waitrose’s parent firm the John Lewis Partnership, are calling for more robust policymaking to support the UK’s transition to electric lorries.

Sainsbury’s confirmed on Wednesday (10 May) that the 12 vans making up its Nine Elms London delivery fleet have been replaced by pure-electric models. The store makes some 2,000 to local homes each week using the vans and Sainsbury’s is anticipating 57 tonnes of mitigated CO2e each year because of the use of EVs.

100% renewable electricity will be used to charge the vans.

By 2035, Sainsbury’s is aiming to reach net-zero operational emissions. It has committed to electrifying its entire fleet by this time.

While the announcement this week covers vans with fridges, Sainsbury’s is also forging ahead with plans to adopt electric refrigerated trailers. These large HGVs were first trialled in 2021 and, last year, the supermarket unveiled plans to co-develop innovative smart charging solutions.

Sainsbury’s’ director of property and procurement, Patrick Dunne, said he is “thrilled” with the firm’s EV progress so far and hopes that Nine Elms customers “will be delighted to learn that their groceries are being delivered with zero emissions, helping to reduce the environmental impact of their online shopping”.

Joint call to action

The news from Sainsbury’s comes in the same week that a group of businesses have written to the UK Government with a string of recommendations on scaling the national electric HGV stock.

Through the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, the UK Government has committed to ending the sale of all new petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040. The UK Platform for Battery Electric Trucking has expressed concerns that this goal will not be achieved without a zero-emission vehicle mandate for HGV manufacturers.

Such a mandate is already in the works for cars and vans. Car manufacturers must ensure that 22% of new models sold in 2024 are electric, rising to 33% by 2026 and 66% by 2029.

Members of the UK Platform for Battery Electric Trucking include National Grid, Scania, Logistics UK and the John Lewis Partnership.

Beyond the mandate, the Platform is accusing the Government of lacking a clear plan to achieve its 2040 phase-out date. At present, just 0.1% of the UK’s HGV fleet is zero-emission, so rapid growth is on the horizon for the zero-emission HGV sector.

The Platform is also recommending the creation of a plan to support British supply chains for battery-electric HGVs. This is particularly pertinent given BritishVolt’s recent collapse and the risk of businesses opting to manufacture in the US or EU, due to significant cleantech subsidy packages.

Aside from vehicle manufacturing, the Platform would like the Government to set the direction of travel for improving charging infrastructure. It is recommending the provision of low-interest or zero-interest loans for private charging infrastructure at depots, plus similar supports at warehouses and depots.

Transport & Environment is the convening body for the Platform. Its director Richard Hebditch said: “The UK’s island geography and density mean lorries do relatively short journeys and the lion’s share of truck charging will happen in depots. Yes, we’ll need some public charging but we can make lots of progress now without the need for serried ranks of chargers at every motorway service station.”

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