Purolator Electric Ford E-Transit
Photo: Purolator

In 2023 alone, the delivery and logistics giant says it will spend more than $100 million and acquire 95 electric vans — 25 Ford E-Transits, 15 BrightDrop Zevo 600s and 55 Motiv Power Systems EPIC4s

Purolator has announced the largest network investment in its history: a $1-billion commitment that includes the purchase of more than 3,500 electric delivery vehicles and the electrification of more than 60 terminals in its Canadian fleet network by 2030. More than $100 million will be invested in 2023.

In a March 9 release, the delivery and logistics company said it has set a target of electrifying 60 per cent of its overall last-mile delivery fleet over the next seven years. Its total fleet is currently made up of 5,000 vehicles.

“Last year, we spent a lot of time putting together a roadmap laying out which terminals make the most sense, and which routes are we able to electrify,” says Cindy Bailey, director and corporate sustainability officer at Purolator, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“We needed to look specifically at the types of vehicles, the routes, the locations, and when we examined all of those things, there are only certain routes in certain situations that actually can be electrified at this time.”

Purolator’s duty cycle for 95 per cent of its fleet includes a departure time from the terminals at around eight or nine o’clock in the morning. The vehicles complete their drop offs and pickups and make it back to the terminal from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Our vehicles, for the most part, are set up quite nicely from an electrification perspective,” says Chris Henry, director, national fleet, at Purolator, speaking to Electric Autonomy. “[They can] sit and have kind of a slow trickle charge if they need to over a good 10 to 12 hour period. They won’t be activated again until the morning.”

100 electric vehicles in 2023

Purolator’s announcement also included news that it will begin by deploying 25 Ford E-Transit vans in London, Ont., Richmond, B.C., and Quebec City this month — part of a plan to add 100 electric vehicles to its fleet by the end of this year.

In addition to the Ford E-Transits, this year’s truck additions will include 55 Motiv Power Systems EPIC4 and 15 BrightDrop Zevo 600 vehicles.

Henry says that the company was “trying to purchase vehicles that meet our operational needs,” when deciding which electric vehicles should make up its fleet.

Purolator delivery vans, on average, run roughly 100 kilometres a day and carry between 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of freight. These numbers can increase to 200 km route distance and 5,000 pounds per day during peak times.

“We had to select, very carefully, the vehicles that we were going to use. We don’t want to buy vehicles that are too large. We want to make sure we maximize the vehicles,” says Henry.

The Ford, Motiv Power and BrightDrop vehicles meet Purolator’s duty cycle needs on paper. But Henry says Purolator will continue to perform a series of tests on the vehicles for range, climate and operational uses.

Purolator is also open to exploring other electric models for future procurements.

“I suspect in the future, we’re going to have to be agile, we’re going to have to be able to be flexible with what comes out from a technology perspective,” says Henry.

Challenges in setting up infrastructure

Purolator’s electrification plan also includes electrifying more than 60 terminals by 2030.

“The infrastructure is — and will remain — the biggest challenge as we go forward on this entire project,” says Henry.

“There are numerous challenges and as we go into each terminal, they’re all a little bit different. We have to work around the idiosyncrasies of each of the buildings.”

Many of Purolator’s terminals will need electrical upgrades. This requires city and regional approvals, engaging with various stakeholders such as landlords, local utilities, contractors and hiring design and engineering firms.

“Down the road, I think the one thing that we are also concerned about is actually a supply of electricity,” says Henry. “As more and more companies like ourselves begin to electrify, it’s going to be a challenge in terms of the availability of electricity.”

But supply chain issues and availability of equipment are the challenges of today, says Purolator’s corporate sustainability officer, Bailey — along with skilled workers.

“There seem to be a lot more people working on these things than there are experts and equipment out there to support,” says Bailey. “We are running into delays related to those things.”

The right time to electrify

Puralator’s journey to deliver more sustainable last-mile delivery solutions started slowly but has been picking up speed of late.

The company first introduced hybrid-electric vehicles into its fleet in 2005. It incorporated low-speed vehicles and e-bikes into its operations and launched its first fully electric delivery vans in 2021.

That same year, Purolator participated in the Run On Less — Electric trucking demonstration, run by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. The vehicle it used was a Class 6 Step Van from Motive Power Systems in Vancouver.

“A lot of it has been dipping our toes in the water to test and to see what might be the ‘art of the possible,'” says Henry.

Now, Purolator is going to use electric vehicles in more than half of its fleet. This will not only help to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, says the company, but also set it up to achieve environmental sustainability goals.

“A couple of years ago, Purolator recognized that environmental sustainability was going to be an important part of our business going forward. The organization made the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to become the greenest courier in Canada,” says Bailey.

And, where electrification isn’t currently feasible, Bailey adds the company will look to other lower-carbon solutions in order to reach its 100 per cent emission reduction goals.