To cut its carbon footprint, Netherland's based supermarket chain Albert Heijn is transitioning to electric vehicles – and Heliox is at the heart of its plans.
Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, with over 1,000 stores providing essential supplies for millions of people. The business can trace its history all the way back to 1887, but its gaze is firmly on the future with a commitment to leaving behind a better world. So far, the business has reduced CO2 emissions in its stress by an incredible 92.3% (when compared with 2018 figures). It's now facing its most significant challenge: decarbonising its fleet – and Heliox is helping them to achieve it.
Albert Heijn's business is based on road haulage, with a network of distribution centres and stores all supplied by one thousand heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and trucks each day. Alongside restocking more than a thousand stores, Albert Heijn operates a growing home delivery operation, providing groceries directly to customers' doors. Many of these diesel-powered vehicles operate in urban centres across the Netherlands and Belgium and due to changes in legislation, will have to transition to emissions-free alternatives in the near future.
A radical step ahead to to zero-emissions transport
Albert Heijn recently announced the radical step of announcing that it would only use electric vehicles to deliver goods to stores and customers inside the inner cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag and Rotterdam by 2023. While these cities were scheduled to become zero-emissions zones by 2025, Albert Heijn is getting a head start on the competition, says Alannah Hoenderdaal, a Transport Expertise Consultant at the company.
Carbon reduction targets both locally and directed by the EU mean that all businesses must act to reduce their emissions, and Albert Heijn aims to be a frontrunner, explains Hoenderdaal. "We will be facing zero-emission zones but will also challenge itself and its partners with higher ambitions towards more climate-friendly transport.” Regulatory pressures and stretching targets are driving factors, but there are other reasons for the shift. "We are convinced that we can add value for our customers by using zero-emission trucks,” she says.
The transition to eTrucks poses several challenges to Albert Heijn, explains Hoenderdaal. "We're learning a lot about our electric trucks and the different types of infrastructure at our depots. We need the confidence we can count on 24/7 working chargers and electric trucks," she says. She hopes the transition to megawatt charging systems (MCS) will standardise operational protocols and provide rapid recharging while reducing risk. "The robustness of the technology is also something that could improve, but of course, it's still relatively young. I'm pretty sure that diesel dispensers encountered several problems 100 years ago!" says Hoenderdaal with a smile.
Beyond developments in vehicle charging technology, Hoenderdaal is encouraged by advances made in the Netherlands to deliver the increased grid capacity required for the societal shift to e-mobility. But the energy transition will require significant effort, innovation and investment.
Expansion of charging stations in 2023
Heliox is at the heart of Albert Heijn's strategy to transition to electric transport. We've already successful installed and configured a new 300 KW charger and modified two existing charging units to deliver faster eTruck charging. After the initial project's success, we're now partnering with Albert Heijn to introduce a further range of chargers to accelerate its eTruck plans. Heliox will install six 180 kW and one MCS to power Albert Heijn's fleet. The project has received funding from the Green Transport Delta – Electrification fund and will support the company's introduction of eTrucks in urban areas. The first MCS will be in operation by summer 2023.
The new chargers will be installed at Albert Heijn's depot and form part of a more extensive network of chargers required to power the estimated 50 eTrucks Albert Heijn requires. The business is taking a phased approach to rolling out charging capacity, focusing on urban areas. In addition, Heliox is exploring options for delivering the power required for Albert Heijn's transition to eTrucks, including large-scale battery storage. These will have the dual benefit of reducing pressure on the grid and ensuring the business has all the power it needs for its fleet.
Albert Heijn is developing a dual-pronged approach to powering its eTruck fleet. "We're going to see both slow and fast chargers depending on the type of operation you run," says Hoenderdaal. "For the case of Albert Heijn, it will probably be a combination. We would still probably place DC chargers for overnight charging sessions, but then hopefully we can switch them to slower charging at 50 kW." The business will also require faster charging, says Hoenderdaal. "When we need opportunity charging, we can go up to 300-400, maybe 500 kW. And we expect operational advantages from dock chargers."
You don't survive in business for almost 150 years without embracing change. Albert Heijn is proactive in dealing with economic challenges and environmental pressures to push forward with eTrucks. "We're convinced that we need to move towards zero-emission transport inside the cities," says Hoenderdaal. "When the MCS standard is established, we also hope to have enough solutions available to deal with the limited grid capacity. At this point, we will certainly see large-scale adoption of electric trucks, tractor-trailers and rigids," she says.
The partnership with Heliox is a huge step toward a more sustainable future for Albert Heijn. Together, we're demonstrating how solid collaboration and robust and scalable charging infrastructure can transform an industry one truck at a time.