Unilever pilots electric truck to start greening up its heavy fleet

17 October 2022 by Ricardo Pengel
blog author

Transporting consumer goods across the world has an enormous impact on the planet in terms of carbon emissions but Unilever has a plan up its sleeve to help mitigate damage.

The consumer goods company is piloting one of the world’s first new heavy-duty trucks which runs on 100 per cent renewable energy.

The 44-tonne Volvo truck is a welcome addition to the fleet as the multinational firm moves towards zero emission vehicles, in line with the Paris Agreement’s objectives, which will see all new trucks sold in the world’s major markets running on zero emissions by 2040.

The truck boasts a sufficient range of up to 185 miles on a single charge and has a battery capacity of 540kWh, equal to more than seven average electric passenger cars. Unilever has invested in high-power charging infrastructure at its Tiel distribution centre in the Netherlands and will transport goods from its distribution centres to retail customers, making it the first vehicle of its kind to hit the road in the country.

The truck is a completely zero emission vehicle when charged with green, renewable electricity at the distribution centre and will reduce up to 100 tonnes of carbon per year compared to other diesel trucks. In addition, it is quieter than its diesel-powered counterparts.

Unilever became the first fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) organisation to join The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, uniting businesses who have pledged to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 and to date, more than 120 companies have signed up.

The organisation has widened its scope for collaboration by becoming one of five founding businesses joining the launch of EV100+, a new group aiming to phase out the heaviest, most polluting vehicles on the roads. Partnering with IKEA, JSW Steel, Maersk and DPD, Unilever has made the commitment to transition its vehicle fleet over more than 7.5 tonnes (the medium-and heavy-duty vehicles or MHDVs) to zero emission vehicles by 2040 across OECD countries, China and India.

MDVs account for 40 per cent of all road transport emissions and a third of total transport fuel use, while globally they represent four per cent of vehicles.

Sandra Roling, Director of Transport at the Climate Group, said: “MHDVs represent the final frontier of zero emission road transportation, and EV100+ will tackle the heaviest, most polluting vehicles across the world.

“We have seen over the last five years how EV100 has acted as a powerful catalyst for change across light-duty vehicle fleets. Now it’s time for EV100+ to drive this change across global MHDV fleets as well. We know the technology is ready, and businesses are willing to lead.”

Michelle Grose, Unilever Head of Global Logistics, said: “Electrification of our transport and distribution activities is at the heart of Unilever’s logistics sustainability strategy. This launch represents a significant step forward in putting that strategy into action and marks a milestone towards more and more electrification in Europe.

“We’re delighted to be one of the first companies to use this new truck, and to be working with our trusted transport partners Kuehne+Nagel and Simon Loos as we start this journey.”

Anna Müller, SVP, Europe North & Central at Volvo Trucks, said: “We are excited about this partnership. Starting with the introduction of the very first heavy electric truck in Unilever’s transport system will provide valuable insights and constitutes a great basis for an extended collaboration in the future.”

Shaqeeb Hussain, Senior Consultant - Sustainable Business at Acre UK, said: As a major industry that has a huge contribution to our carbon emissions globally, it is important for sector giants such as Unilever to set an example for other FMCG organisations. They became the first brand of its kind to join the EV100 initiative which paved the way for 120 other companies, demonstrating the influence they have in the market.

“Seeing a collaboration at this level between Unilever and Volvo, both of which have already set themselves goals in line with the Paris Agreement, will set a path that will ideally become the norm moving forward. With these state-of-the-art vehicles having a long charge time and the ability to promote change across MHDVs, the practicality of the fleet will be unchanged, so the industry is more than ready to make the transition.”

Ricardo Pengel, Principal Consultant - Sustainable Business and Consumer Goods Practice Lead at Acre EU, said:“This is a much-needed development as the buzz around electrification of fleets has been around for quite some time now, however, car manufacturers have been quite conservative with providing (affordable) electrical cars as demand and infrastructure are not quite there yet.

“Slowly but surely, there are more options for consumers when it comes to electric cars and the infrastructure is also rapidly improving and this paves the way for MHDVs as well. With the increased urgency on climate, fossil fuel bans, zero-emission vehicle mandates, increased awareness around sustainability and so on, finally the momentum for the electrification of fleets is there and it is great to see that big names like Unilever, IKEA and Pepsi, for example, are taking their responsibility and lead by example.”

​Ricardo Pengel is a Principal Consultant within Acre Benelux's Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability team.

Ricardo has recruited across various sectors for national, regional and international organizations. Prior to joining Acre, Ricardo worked for a renowned global executive search firm where he was part of the firm’s Procurement, Supply Chain & Operations Centre of Excellence and was responsible for retained searches across the Benelux region. Prior to this, he worked for a reputable global recruitment firm for five years where he was part of the firm’s Procurement & Supply Chain practice where he led a team focusing on senior management searches.

His earlier career was in the hospitality industry where he was working as a Corporate Event Manager for a global hotel chain and was responsible for contracting and organizing corporate events for global organizations. Ricardo holds a Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management from Hotelschool The Hague in The Netherlands. He is fluent in English, Dutch and Italian.

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