In this series we talk to the individuals and companies helping retailers become greener businesses – highlighting the tools, technologies, and options available to support a change in environmental focus.
BEDEO – which helps electrify the fleets of companies such as Ocado and DHL – has created retrofit technology enabling diesel vans to switch to electric power at the touch of a button.
The RE-100 Range Extender technology, which forms part of a new stable of ‘Reborn Electric’ products, fits to existing diesel vans to make them both electric first and/or diesel at the touch of a button using its in-wheel motor (IWM) technology.
What’s the business case for the tech?
BEDEO has developed the technology with the aim of helping organisations with large fleets of vans – often those with major conversions such as on-board refrigeration units and bespoke fit-outs – to retain those vehicles for longer. Instead of removing their fleets as the push for electrification and finding alternatives to fossil fuels continues, these businesses can make that step gradually and affordably, according to BEDEO.
The Farnham-based manufacturer said a vehicle fitted with a RE-100 Range Extender becomes “electric first” and has 117km of electric range, which it argued makes it ideal for ‘last mile’ deliveries into towns and cities, particularly where motorists face potential charges in no- or low-emissions zones.
The idea is the existing diesel mode can be activated and used when needed for longer trips, providing a solution for companies caught between the twin goals of wanting greener fleets but needing to keep on top of the costs associated with such a transition. BEDEO’s technology means usable and functionable vehicles will not have to be removed from fleets, but can instead evolve to operate with a lower environment footprint.
How it works
At the heart of RE-100 are two IWMs as well as a battery designed, engineered and manufactured by BEDEO.
The IWMs are fitted to the rear axle of the vehicle, and BEDEO says the motors are “more compact, lighter, efficient and easier to install than an equivalent e-axle” and have a 37kWh battery to power them.
No suspension modifications are required to the front or rear of the vehicle, which BEDEO said means there is no loss of ground clearance and no loss of load space or height in the modified van.
BEDEO’s technology also stops the vehicle from being operated as diesel within controlled low emissions zones, unless in an emergency. Outside of controlled zones the driver is in control and can determine when to stay in electric or switch to diesel when longer distances are required.
Today BEDEO can fit RE solutions to large commercial vans including the Peugeot Boxer, Citroen Jumper, Fiat Ducato and Vauxhall Movano, but it has the intention to be a solution provider for all large vans. BEDEO said it has the capacity to convert hundreds of vehicles at any one time at its sites across Europe.
What the founder says
“With the RE-100 we have created a new category of hybrid that not only meets the needs of the market but also accelerates transport decarbonisation,” says Osman Boyner, founder of BEDEO.
He tells Green Retail World that a key target market is businesses that have already invested heavily in the back of their vans such as grocers, as well as small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) which could feel the burden of new emissions charges and legislation more than most.
“Our technology is being trialled in France right now and the more value in the back of the van, the more people are interested in it,” Boyner says.
“Electric-only fleet vehicles was more a last-mile interest, but we’re now looking for those who have spent a lot on their fleet vehicles and don’t want to do it again – the grocers are in that category. But SMEs are faced with the financial burden, so we target them too.”
Highlighting the wide interest he expects to see in the technology and the multiple cases for its deployment, Boyner adds: “We throw out the seeds and see who responds.”
The founder suggests as regulation comes in around low-emission or no emission zones – ULEZ in London is an example – businesses with fleets are essentially being asked to keep an electric vehicle for city and another for long distance.
“You’re being forced by regulators and original equipment manufacturers to buy two vans for the same job, but we offer two in one – no need for compromise,” he says.
“It’s additional business for us. The penetration of electric in the large van segment is small, so you could say it is good business to assist fleet owners on their electrification journey.”
What constitutes sustainability in transportation is a big debate. But, as retailers are highlighting with their shift to more circular models of operating and the burgeoning resale market in fashion and electricals, optimising the materials already in existence and reducing overconsumption can often be the greenest move businesses can make.
That argument comes into play with BEDEO’s new technology, too.
“Chucking out two and half tonnes of metal and buying a new vehicle – yes, it’s good if it’s electric, but we’re saying ‘keep the car and we’ll augment it’,” Boyner notes.
“You’re not necessarily wanting to change the vehicle, you want to change the powertrain which is old and is giving high emissions and creating costs. We have a vehicle refurbishment part to the RE-100 plan – why waste a resource you have?”
Boyner on retail’s electrification journey
Be it the slow-to-arrive robust electric vehicle infrastructure in the UK, lack of government direction, or the inflationary environment making it too costly to invest, there are several reasons that have halted the retail industry’s wholesale move to electric fleets.
“We’ve been in this business for more than ten years, building new electric vans, and we see how much companies are investing money in the back of the van [refrigeration, for example],” says Boyner.
“Asking them to throw it out is not really sustainable so we need to bring product to the market so they can continue using their existing vehicles in the face of increasing regulation, and mounting environmental concerns.”
BEDEO is not retail industry-specific in its focus, but it has been engaged with the market for some time. The majority of Ocado’s electric vehicles are manufactured by BEDEO, while Sainsbury’s continues to test several electric-powered options available, including BEDEO. Boyner says Tesco tested his company’s vehicles but went elsewhere with its fleet roll-out, but Albert Heijn in Netherlands is trialling use of refrigerated BEDEO vans.
Boyner argues much of the retail need for vehicles comes in the first mile – as goods are delivered to shops from depots and suppliers – and cites that as a reason why retail’s electrification journey has been slow.
“They are seeing with the distance to cover they can’t carry the battery for the whole distance,” he says, adding that BEDEO’s switchable option could prove a solution for retailers looking to make this part of their operations more sustainable.
“If a company says they want to be sustainable that doesn’t mean just going out and buying electric vehicles. One way of looking at it is ‘can I use my materials more?’. That is something we’re trying to explain to the market.”
At Green Retail World we are giving greener retail champions, like Osman and BEDEO, a chance to explain how they are helping retailers become greener businesses. Please contact editor, Ben Sillitoe, if you’d like to put yourself forward for an interview on this key subject. Sharing good practice can help the wider sector move in a positive direction.
[Main image credit: BEDEO]