Big names like Amazon and FedEx may be leading the way, but our round-up of fully electric vans finds an increasing number of options are coming to Canada for companies looking to electrify their fleets
While the environmental and health benefits of electric vehicle adoption have long been well publicized, the business case for mass electrification is now becoming equally compelling for fleet managers. A recent study found that more than 60 per cent of fleets would see financial gains if they electrified their vehicles today, thanks to the sizeable long-term fuel savings that EVs bring.
In addition to the quickly expanding market for passenger electric vehicles, there is rapid and notable growth happening in the electric delivery van sector, which could have an immediate impact on industry fleets and present an opportunity for fleet managers planning to electrify.
With 35,914 commercial vans sold in Canada in 2020 alone, there is a sizeable market and early movers show there is growing demand for electric options. A number of major fleets, such as Pride Group, the Ontario-based logistics firm, have already signed on. Amazon has commissioned Rivian to produce its electric Prime van and has pledged to have 100,000 of the vehicles on the road by 2030. President Joe Biden announced in January that the U.S. government’s entire fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles, the majority of which are postal vehicles, would also be replaced with electric models.
Here, we take a look at each of the electric delivery vans currently available and slated to hit Canadian roads in the next few years, as well as some of the major fleets nationally and elsewhere that are setting the example by committing to add these zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to their fleets.
GM Brightdrop EV600
Earlier this year, General Motors announced its plan to completely phase out internal combustion vehicles by 2035 — a strategy that includes introducing 30 new, fully electric vehicle models by 2025. Among the first to debut will be the Brightdrop EV600, a commercial electric van which will be available to Canadian customers by the end of this year.
Designed with long-range delivery of goods in mind, the vehicle is powered by GM’s new Ultium battery system and has a range of up to 400 kilometres on a full charge. The vehicle will be assembled in Ontario, following a $1-billion investment from GM to convert the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll into Canada’s first large-scale auto plant for electric vehicles.
FedEx is currently set to become the first major purchaser of the EV600, a move that brings it closer to its pledge to achieve full carbon-neutrality by 2040. Although the number of vehicles purchased has not been disclosed, FedEx plans to make half of its global vehicle purchases electric by 2025.
The first FedEx EV600s are expected to be on the roads by the end of this year.
Announced in November of 2020, Ford’s full-size E-Transit van will be available at all Canadian Ford dealers in late 2021 as a 2022 model, just after the launch of Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E and in time to compete with GM’s EV600.
As with the gasoline-powered Ford Transit, there will be six different E-Transit models to choose from, with three wheelbase and three height options. Ford estimates the van will deliver 200 kilometres of range, and prices will start at $58,000 — about $18,000 above its gas counterpart. The van will be assembled in Kansas City, Mo., and will utilize the LG Chem battery unit also found in the Mach-E.
Canoo Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle (MPDV)
Canoo is a Los Angeles-based electric vehicle company whose multi-purpose delivery vehicle, the aptly named MPDV, was “built specifically with the needs of small businesses and large last-mile delivery companies in mind.” The sleek, boxy EV will first see roads in a limited U.S. release in 2022, followed by a wider North American rollout, including Canada, in 2023.
The MPDV will be available in two standard sizes: the MPDV1, with 230 cubic feet of cargo space; and the larger MPDV2, with 500 cubic feet. Each will have 40, 60 and 80 kWh battery options, with single-charge ranges of 210 to 370 kilometres for the MPDV1 and 145 to 305 kilometres MPDV2. The MPDV1 has a starting price of US$33,000.
GreenPower EV Star Cargo
Unlike most of the other vans on this list, the EV Star Cargo and Cargo Plus from Vancouver-based GreenPower Motor Co. are available today. In December, the City of Vancouver took delivery of the first EV Cargo Plus. The purpose-built vehicles are based on the same EV Star platform GreenPower uses for two models of minibuses, more than 100 of which are already on the road.
The EV Star vans come with a 118 kWh battery and have a range of about 240 kilometres. In addition to CCS-1 DC fast charging capability, GreenPower also offers the option of wireless charging, thanks to a three-year partnership struck last year with wireless charging technology pioneer Momentum Dynamics of Malvern, Pa.
Cargo space on the EV Star Cargo checks in at 579 cubic feet, with a payload capacity of 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds). The Cargo Plus has less cargo capacity but can be fitted with an optional rear liftgate.
While Mercedes-Benz eSprinter van has been available in Europe since 2019, it is currently on track to trail Ford and GM electric vans in the North American market by a few years. The eSprinter is expected to be available in the U.S. and Canada in the third quarter of 2023.
The front-wheel drive European eSprinter has a range of approximately 167 kilometres and a maximum payload around 890 kilograms. In 2020, Amazon purchased 1,200 of the vehicles for European deliveries.
London-based electric vehicle manufacturer Arrival announced its commercial cargo EV (simply called Arrival Van) last year. While full production of the vehicles will not begin until the third quarter of 2022, public road trials with “key customers” will commence this summer.
In a step toward achieving that target, Arrival announced this month they will be opening their second microfactory in the U.S. — a USD$41.2 million facility in West Charlotte, North Carolina. Production will start there in Q3 of 2022. Arrival’s assembly model relies on microfactories, which can be constructed for under $50 million, compared to the usual $1 billion price tag for an auto factory. Two of Arrival’s microfactories are already operational (in Bicester, near London and in Rock Hill, South Carolina). The company aims to have 31 microfactories open by 2024, which underscores their overall strategy of rapid growth.
Arrival made headlines last spring when it announced in a press release UPS would purchase 10,000 of its Vans to be deployed by 2024 in the UK, Europe and North America. UPS announced an investment in Arrival of unspecified size alongside the order, and noted that Arrival’s vehicles offered UPS “compelling commercial and environmental benefits to make a seamless and cost effective transition to a zero emissions fleet.”
Michigan-based Bollinger Motors first unveiled concept images for its DELIVER-E electric cargo van last summer. The low-riding van will be available with battery size options from 70 kWh to 120 kWh and in varying wheelbase sizes and vehicle classes.
Bollinger has announced the DELIVER-E will be put into production for American and Canadian customers in 2022, in collaboration with an as-of-yet unnamed manufacturing partner. On the company website Bollinger says, “we are prioritizing the US and Canada markets for our first production run.”
Workhorse Group C-Series
Workhorse is an electric vehicle manufacturer based in Cincinnati, Ohio, which in 2018 collaborated with UPS to produce an electric delivery van with a 160-kilometre single-charge range. Nine-hundred and fifty of those vans, now called the C-Series, were ultimately purchased and deployed by UPS. More recently, Pride Group, a Mississauga-based trucking and logistics company, announced an order for more than 6,300 C-Series vehicles in January.
Canadian delivery fleets primed to catch the e-wave
It’s not surprising to see Amazon, FedEx, UPS and the USPS all making moves towards electrification. While a number of those fleets span North America, it remains to be seen the extent to which Canada’s largest national fleets do the same.
Purolator, which operates a fleet of over 4,000 delivery vehicles across Canada, last fall began testing three compact, low-speed fully electric trucks in Montreal and Toronto for their ability to improve last-mile deliveries in dense urban centres.
The low-speed EVs can carry 80 packages and have an 80-kilometre range at speeds between 32 and 40 kilometres. According to a company spokesperson, each vehicle can replace an average fuel-powered truck, providing the same operating performance while reducing GHG emissions by 24 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. Elsewhere in its fleet, Purolator operates 323 hybrid-electric vehicles and five fully electric cargo bikes.
Canada Post also operates a relatively small number of hybrid-electric delivery vehicles: 374 in a fleet of over 13,000 vehicles, as of 2019. As far back as 2011, it deployed four eStar Navistar vans for regular service.
There are signs it has bigger plans. Last summer, Canada Post issued a Request for Proposals to purchase a “limited quantity of electric vehicles for the purpose of carrying out a pilot involving field trials of vehicles in an operational setting… to assist Canada Post in developing and refining the requirements, specifications and evaluation criteria to be used in future, anticipated RFPs involving procurements of Electric Vehicles (EVs).” But so far, details of the scope of this pilot project, or any progress or results so far gleaned, have not been made public.
With options from several legacy automakers as well as numerous innovative startups on track to hit Canadian roads by the end of the year, 2021 could be a watershed year both for those who choose to electrify their fleets and those who delay.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 25th, 2021 with the addition of GreenPower’s electric van