The Islington Tribune has today reported that Ocado have proposed using electric vans at this distribution depot, maybe, possibly at some point in the future if Islington help them out with electricity and van technology matures. But with no enforcement mechanism, this is an empty promise.
The statement below sets out why we believe electric vans are a distant dream, and counter to Ocado’s economic model.
Lies, Van Lies and Electricity
Ocado’s vague plans to switch from diesel to electric vans are misleading and disingenuous.
Ocado is talking about switching to electric vans if certain conditions are met. If this site is ever operates using diesel vans, it will cause harm to the pupils and residents there and then – promises of future improvement are of no use to them.
Given the cost of electric vans and the required electrical infrastructure, vague plans are not a commitment to switch and far more detail on this plan is required.
Whilst there are many examples of electric delivery vehicles being used in London, including UPS in Kentish Town, the Ocado delivery trucks are refrigerated, this leads to more technical challenges. In a recent interview with Essential Retail, Mark Bentley, director of service delivery at Ocado
admitted that “there are significant technical issues, particularly as the refrigeration function uses energy and reduces the range of the vans, requiring more trips to the spoke, and rapid electric charging is not possible”. Recent trials have shown that electric vans could replace a diesel van in some cases, however they cost thousands of pounds a year more than a diesel van to operate. The technical limitations and cost of electric delivery vans are why 99% of Ocado vans are diesel fuelled.
Electric vans require expensive new power supply capacity that Ocado don’t have in place.
Ocado says they will switch to electric vans only if they can attain a significant power upgrade. No site planning to use electric vehicles should go ahead unless this is certain. There is extremely limited electrical supply capacity available locally. The Holloway bus garage just across the railway line has recently carried out an electrical infrastructure upgrade. Metroline who operate the bus garage described the electrification process, as costly and time consuming, requiring extensive collaboration with TFL and UKPN (UK Power Networks). The garage has only 40 chargers for 60 electric buses due to power capacity limitations in the area, additionally smart charging ensures the garage draws its maximum power between 11pm and 6am when local electricity demand is very low. With this existing electrical charging installation so close, Ocado or Telereal (Ocado’s landlord) will struggle to obtain the required large electrical supply from UKPN. Furthermore the site is relatively hard to access and the new supply would likely need to come from considerable distance, requiring lots of digging up of roads taking months to deliver. As Ocado have signed a 15 year lease without this electrical infrastructure being in place, it is unlikely that Telereal will invest the millions of pounds likely to be required for this power upgrade. With only a 15 year lease in place, Ocado are unlikely to make this huge investment.