Geazone Eco-courier now has 20 hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai cars in its zero-emissions fleet and plans to add 20 more in the coming months
Geazone Eco-Courier, a “final-mile” courier company serving Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island, is expanding its fleet of zero-emission vehicles to include 40 new hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
Geazone, whose business includes delivery services, third-party logistics and freight services, is taking advantage of rebates for fuel cell vehicles offered under the province’s CleanBC Go Electric Hydrogen Fleet program. The subsidy offers eligible fleet operators $8,000 to a maximum of 35 per cent of selling price for the purchase of an FCEV.
“We want to commend Geazone for taking a bold and innovative step. This first North American initiative in the courier space is really meaningful because, in the aftermath of COP26, it demonstrates that it’s possible to take meaningful action today to reduce carbon emissions and that how and where you focus your efforts is going to be really important in the coming years,” said Stephen Beatty, vice-president, corporate at Toyota Canada in a virtual press conference held on Nov. 15.
“By focusing on eliminating emissions from what’s typically an intense and highly urbanized use cycle [Geazone] is truly a sustainability leader and champion.”
In September, Geazone added nine Mirais to its fleet — which it bills as North America’s first hydrogen-powered courier fleet — bringing its FCEV complement to 20 vehicles. The company secured $72,000 in provincial rebates for the latest purchase. It says it plans to expand the order to reach 40 Mirais, total, in the next few months.
Choosing hydrogen during scale-up
The launch of its hydrogen-powered courier fleet marks a significant shift in Geazone’s business model, which previously only included electric-assist cargo tricycles, battery electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, and plans for fully electric trucks in 2022.
Andrew Mitchell, Geazone’s president and CEO said during the press event that the company experienced “a bit of ebb and flow” with its business-to-business delivery service when the COVID pandemic hit.
“We made a big pivot with our business model and we shifted a lot more to the final-mile transportation, where we saw a massive increase in pace for our business, in terms of the speed in which we had to scale up,” said Mitchell.
To meet the growing demand, the company transitioned over to FCEVs, instead of expanding its business with another batch of battery-powered vehicles.
The reason behind the decision, said Mitchell, was because the Mirai would only take five minutes to refuel — helping the company remain competitive with an “on-demand” fleet in the courier and transportation space, while still having the same zero-emissions impact it would get with battery-powered vehicles.
“We were able to scale up faster than I’ve ever done with a fleet of EVs before,” said Mitchell. “And that’s based on the fact that we don’t need any charge stations at the warehouses to plug in. We don’t need to have a larger footprint of warehouses to plug in the vehicles around our facility. We can park the vehicles wherever they need and staff can take them home at night [without worrying about charging].”
What makes this possible is B.C. small but growing network of public hydrogen fueling stations, backed by a $10-million investment from the province announced last year. Currently, there are three stations in Greater Vancouver and one on Vancouver Island, with another six planned in the next two years.
Provincial hydrogen strategy
This summer, B.C. built on its initial announcement by becoming the first province in Canada to introduce a hydrogen strategy roadmap. It outlines how the province can utilize renewable and low-carbon hydrogen to reduce emissions and create jobs in the clean technology sector.
At the time of that announcement, Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, said the strategy would lay out a series of short-, medium- and long-term actions over the next 10 years. The plan will involve government, industry and innovators to help achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Some of the strategy’s short-term goals include increasing the production of renewable hydrogen, establishing regional hydrogen hubs and deploying medium- and heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles.
“With four active hydrogen fueling stations, and several more planned, British Columbia is certainly in the right place to launch a courier fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles,” said Colin Armstrong, chair of Hydrogen BC and president and CEO of Hydrogen Technology Energy Corp., in the Geazone press release.
“The foresight of the B.C. government combined with the innovative work of local companies means we have the necessary hydrogen fuelling infrastructure for a seamless fleet service operation. We’re excited to be home to North America’s first hydrogen-powered courier fleet, and we congratulate Geazone on this exciting venture.”