Menzies Distribution has become the first newspaper distribution company to operate a Modec electric vehicle, following the delivery of a seed 5.5 tonne model which will operate out of one of the company's central London depots.
If the trial proves successful more electric vehicles could join the company's 500-strong commercial vehicle fleet, which operates across the UK and Ireland and is responsible for delivering a significant volume of the shortest shelf life product to a higher number of consumers than any other supply chain. This includes more than 5 million newspapers and 2.5 million magazines each day.
Stuart McLean, Logistics Manager at Menzies Distribution, explains: “We want to be at the forefront of learning about this new technology and the Modec allows us to experiment with operating an electric zero-emission vehicle in the heart of central London. It's the perfect environment to really put the Modec through its paces, whilst enjoying a range of additional benefits including a 100 per cent discount from the Congestion Charge.
“The delivery of the Modec forms part of a wider project within Menzies Distribution aimed at further reducing the carbon footprint of the business. To support its arrival in the fleet we are assessing the feasibility of installing a photovoltaic recharging system at our depot, which will allow us to provide much of the electrical power needed for the vehicle through solar energy. The Modec test follows the introduction two months ago of 10 Mercedes-Benz Eco-Start vans, which automatically cut the engine whenever the vehicle is stationary for more than two seconds, then automatically start it again when the driver depresses the clutch pedal. We are also in discussion with Isuzu about bringing a hybrid electric / diesel commercial vehicle onto the fleet too,” he adds.
Supplied on a five year full service contract hire agreement by Fraikin, the Modec has been designed in a custom-livery sponsored by the Guardian – aimed at creating maximum impact on the road, whilst highlighting the vehicle's environmental credentials.
It features bespoke-designed bodywork manufactured by Glasgow based Tekbo which includes a rear roller-shutter door and entry doors on both sides of the vehicle, accessed via a corridor immediately behind the cab. This arrangement affords drivers maximum flexibility for entering and exiting the vehicle safely. It also uses a sliding door to separate the corridor from the load space, with a series of low voltage LEDs to light the interior.
It has been specified with the latest lithium batteries, giving the vehicle a range of up to 60 miles on a full five-hour charge. This new battery technology has the advantage of allowing Menzies Distribution to part-charge the battery where necessary – with each hours' charge replacing 20 per cent of the battery's power.
The Modec will be making up to 30 deliveries each morning throughout the Westminster area, starting its run at 4.30am from the company's depot close to the Old Kent Road – one of three Menzies Distribution facilities serving Greater London. It will travel through the heart of the Congestion Charging zone and also be used during the afternoon to transport express parcels to a central sorting facility bound for overseas locations on behalf of sister company Menzies Aviation.
Gavin Lightfoot, the first driver at Menzies Distribution to operate the Modec, explains: “It's the perfect vehicle to drive around the city on multi-drop work, with good visibility, a comfortable ride and easy access to and from the driver's seat and the load area. The unique styling attracts a lot of attention from other motorists and pedestrians, and I've had a number of people stop me and remark that it looks like a modern day version of the 'Mystery Machine' from Scooby-Doo!”
Menzies Distribution is part of John Menzies plc, one of Scotland's largest companies, and makes daily deliveries across the UK to more than 23,000 customers. Its fleet of commercial vehicles covers nearly 100,000 miles each day, operating from 19 hub depots and 18 satellite depots supported by a team of approximately 4,000 employees.