Heineken Netherlands finding success with large electric HGVs for city centre distrubution in Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Heineken Netherlands is stepping up its plans for a fully electric secondary distribution fleet of HGVs by 2020 across major cities in the Randstad region (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht).

The brewery rolled out its first electric truck in October 2013 – a 19-tonne converted Volvo. This was followed last year by the introduction of a 12-tonne electric lorry in Amsterdam (pictured), built from scratch by truck-builder Ginaf on a Mercedes-Benz chassis.

Following encouraging early results from the two test vehicles and positive feedback from industry, city officials and members of the public, Heineken has announced it will be adding two more 19-tonners in Rotterdam and a further seven 12-tonners in Amsterdam.

Rotterdam

Heineken’s first electric truck was developed and designed in collaboration with the City of Rotterdam, Erasmus University, vehicle converter Hytruck and logistics firm G van der Heijden Distribution.

It entered operation in October 2013, taking beers from the company’s urban distribution centre (DC) to wholesalers and retailers across the city of Rotterdam.

At 19 tonnes, with a nine-tonne load capacity and a driving range of 150km/12 hours on one charge, the company said it is particularly suited for multi-drop urban distribution. Longer-term, Heineken is also hoping electric trucks will be able to undertake greater-distance journeys outside of city centres as battery technology evolves.

The HGV will save 22 tonnes of CO2 each year, as well as limiting the exhaust of particulate matter and NOx emissions.

Typically travelling about 75km per day, the lorry is charged overnight at Heineken’s DC, which will shortly be fitted with solar panels to ensure the power used to charge the vehicles is from a renewable source.

It is powered by a Li-Ion 120kWh/700V battery pack charged with a 22kW, 400V/32A management system.

Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, a 12-tonne HGV has been developed as part of the EU-funded FREVUE project, which seeks to boost the uptake of zero-emission vehicles and more efficient urban logistics practices across Europe through a series of trials across major cities, including London.

FREVUE statistics show that around 3,500 trucks and 25,000 vans drive into the city of Amsterdam every day, contributing to congestion as well as air pollution. Amsterdam itself has a delicate medieval centre, narrow winding streets and small cobblestoned bridges, which provide challenges for freight transport.

Regulations mean the maximum permitted weight for HGVs entering Amsterdam is 12 tonnes, with delivery trucks only allowed to deliver to the city centre between 7am and 11am.

However, the FREVUE project hopes the electric vehicle trials taking place in Amsterdam with project partners Heineken, TNT Express and UPS will lead to dispensation for the maximum weight, as well as being allowed extended delivery time slots and parking/loading enhancements.

Heineken said discussions so far with city officials about the use of its electric vehicles to operate within a larger delivery window have been promising. A spokesman explained: “We talked with city officials to see if there might be room to extend delivery hours all day because we had zero emissions, and they said this would be considered.”

Comparison

Heineken said the upfront costs of the initial test trucks were around double that of their diesel counterparts, however, these would be expected to reduce if vehicles entered mainstream production. Considering whole-life costs over a period of up to seven years was also important to gauge a fair like-for-like comparison.

The spokesman added: “It wouldn’t surprise me if the trucks were taken into full-scale production. These are the first models of their type. The Rotterdam one is converted from a Volvo by Hytruck, but the Amsterdam truck is built from scratch by Ginaf using a Mercedes-Benz chassis. They are only likely to do this if they have plans for production and there is a business case.”

Operational costs to date have worked out comparable with diesel trucks, as has vehicle reliability; however Heineken said it is too early to get a true picture at this stage.

Acceptance

The company’s drivers have enthusiastically embraced the electric trucks, despite an initial scepticism about the technology, and are particularly impressed with health benefits from the vehicles’ silent running.

“The silence in the cabin is fantastic,” said the spokesman, who explained that a common problem for many lorry drivers can be hearing disabilities caused by the loud noise experienced in a convential truck. “This is completely gone. It is a very calm driving environment.”

However, this quiet technology has also meant drivers have been required to undergo specialist training.

“We have to give the drivers special training because you cannot hear the vehicles coming, which is a common problem with electric vehicles. Drivers have to be more aware and sharper in traffic to be aware of bikes, scooters and pedestrians,” he added.

Public reaction to the electric trucks has also been positive, according to Heineken, with much support for the new technology being used around the city.

Sustainability plans

The introduction of electric trucks forms part of the company’s ‘Brewing a Better World’ sustainability strategy, in which Heineken aims to reduce distribution emissions globally by 20% by 2020.

Jeroen Cover, Heineken director wholesale, said “As part of our sustainability strategy and goals, Heineken is constantly working to reduce CO2 emissions. This is a prime example of how we can make a real difference.”

He added that the move to zero-emissions vehicles would also help future-proof the company and ensure it stayed ahead of tougher, urban emissions regulations being phased in across major cities worldwide.