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Purolator to invest $1B to electrify vehicle fleet, terminals

Courier and logistics firm to electrify 60% of its vehicles, plus 60 regional facilities

Purolator is planning to make an approximately $1-billion investment to electrify its delivery fleet and terminals. (Courtesy Purolator Inc.)

UPDATED: Purolator Inc. plans to invest $1 billion over seven years to electrify 60 per cent of its vehicle fleet and over 60 of its terminals – the largest commitment of its kind in company history.

This investment includes a plan to purchase more than 3,500 fully electric last-mile delivery vehicles for routes across Canada.

“We spent a lot of time over the last year-and-a-half working internally with our key stakeholders, with our board, with our senior staff and trying to figure out, 'how are we going to achieve our 2030 GHG (greenhouse gas) goals?' " Chris Henry, Purolator’s director of national fleet, told SustainableBiz. "The billion dollars was one of those pieces that came later on, once we started to add all the math of how we're going to get there.

“The reality is, is our plan today may not be our plan two years from now, just because of the ongoing evolution of the EV (electric vehicle) market. You never know what's gonna happen with governments and how they're going to regulate it.”

The investment is expected to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.

Founded in 1960, Purolator is an integrated freight, package and logistics solutions provider that employs 14,000 people across Canada. Headquartered in Mississauga, it is 91 per cent owned by Canada Post.

Purolator’s fleet electrification

The fleet electrification will begin with over 100 all-electric vehicles in 2023 and an additional 150 in 2024. The new fleet will be comprised of the Ford E-Transit, Motiv Power Systems' EPIC4 and the BrightDrop Zevo 600 models.

Over $100 million will be invested in 2023.

This month Purolator will begin deploying 25 Ford E-Transit vans in London, Ont.; Richmond, B.C.; and Quebec City. A further 55 Motiv and 15 BrightDrop models, along with several low-speed vehicles and electric cargo bikes, will be added later this year.

These deployments will serve as pilots so the company can better understand the vehicle transition.

Henry said vehicles have been the company’s largest source of emissions.

“We want to understand more about the vehicles in our specific operational use case. So different companies are electrifying, but they don't have the same operational parameters that we do,” Henry said. He explained the vehicle deployments will likely occur a “couple of hundred” at a time annually, probably in the latter half of each year. 
“We believe that gives us time to flex and adapt to the market and to the changes, whether that's battery technology, vehicle technology or charging technology.”

Purolator has over 110 terminals across Canada, according to Henry. Each one services, on average, between 50 to 70 routes depending on its size.

The electrification process with these properties depends on the needs of each site, including location and power demands. Henry explained local and provincial utilities will play a significant role in the terminal electrification.

“There are other components, switch boxes, transformers that we may have to upgrade in our facilities, depending on their age. So there's numerous components that go into actually creating the infrastructure in a terminal and right now there's a lot of supply chain challenges that that are happening in that business,” he said. “So it's been a bit of a challenge for us and it probably will continue to be our biggest challenge as we go forward, is electrifying the buildings.”

The company will also invest in alternative fuels and low-carbon technologies. It plans to reduce emissions from electricity by 100 per cent through the use of renewable sources and by diverting more than 70 per cent of its waste from landfills.

Purolator’s sustainability goals

In its 2021 ESG report, the company set a goal to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2030, and be on a path to reach its ultimate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

This move is the latest in a series of sustainability initiatives by Purolator.

In 2005, it introduced over 500 hybrid-electric vehicles into its fleet.

In 2020, Purolator began pilot projects with all-electric vehicles and low-speed vehicles. Today, its e-bikes operate in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, while low-speed vehicles operate in Vancouver and Montreal.

Purolator says it became the first Canadian courier to integrate fully electric vehicles into its fleet in 2021. The company partnered with Motiv Power Systems for the Vancouver deployment, which provided the Electric Power Intelligence Chassis for Ford F-59 delivery vehicles. At the time, Purolator stated the new all-electric fleet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 24 metric tonnes per vehicle, per year.

“We'll begin to build out, probably three or four years from now, what it looks like from 2031 to 2050 . . . Hopefully, we'll get to 100 per cent EVs at that point in time,” Henry said. “But again, the industry is ever-changing, whether that's hydrogen, natural gas (or) hybrids.

"Different things may come up in the next several years that maybe, we evolve our strategy and electrification only becomes a small part of it, or just a portion of it.”

Last year, Purolator introduced Urban Quick Stop mini hubs in several Canadian cities, which replaced delivery vans with electric cargo bikes.

The first mini hub opened in Toronto at 19 Spadina Rd. in July, along with a second location at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. The mini hubs are expected to decrease traffic congestion and lower carbon dioxide emissions by 68 tonnes per year.

“Hopefully, as we build our network out, we'll start to see more of those appear,” Henry said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: SustainableBiz has updated this article with comments and additional details from Purolator.

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