Based on an interview with Paul Kahlert, General Manager of All Purpose Transport
All Purpose Transport (APT) is primarily a last-mile delivery provider to blue-chip customers such as Rheem, Solahart, Goodyear, BP, IKEA, Fantastic Furniture, and Bunzl. Founded in 1975, APT’s business model engages close to 300 owner-drivers who select and purchase their vehicles to perform delivery services on behalf of APT.
Project EV was conceived to investigate more sustainable delivery methods for last-mile deliveries, as the current fleet all use internal combustion engines (ICE). APT’s current fleet consumes around 60,000 litres of diesel each week, putting 160 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. There is now proven evidence that shows an increase in the amount of CO2 creates an overabundance of greenhouse gases that trap additional heat, creating climate change. As a family business, APT’s founders wanted the business to explore how they could reduce their carbon footprint whilst retaining a commercially viable business.
In addition to this, APT’s vehicles enter residential areas to perform around 2500 home deliveries a week, where the vehicles generate noise and diesel particulate dust where families live. The purpose of this project is to provide solutions that are both commercially sound and have a significant positive impact on the reduction of emissions from delivery activities.
In addition, this project will provide a “roadmap” on how APT can transition its ICE vehicles to electric vehicles whilst retaining the integrity of the current owner-driver business model.
It is already clear that within the next ten years, a significant shift will occur in the transport industry, particularly in the high-population areas where small trucks will be battery powered while larger trucks will adopt a hydrogen fuel cell solution. APT wants to ensure that they stay in front of their competitors and provide a cost-effective and sustainable solution to them by starting the zero emission transformation early.
APT currently has three electric vehicles — one SEA Electric vehicle, a Hino conversion to electric; one JAC NV55 electric truck supplied by BLK Auto; and one EC11 electric van supplied by EV Automotive.
Each of the vehicles have different load capacity and range. “As a rule, we build delivery runs of around 160 km to eliminate ‘range anxiety’. The trucks can carry up to 2 tons and the van around 1.5 tons. Right now the vehicles start/finish from our depot, so we need to keep them ‘close.’ With the implementation of charging options at service stations and shopping centres, we are starting to trial taking the vehicles outside their ‘range’ and then using fast charging solutions to support their return to base.”
This will noticeably increase the vehicle ranges when the fast charge equipment is installed at loading docks and other truck-accessible areas (ie, not Tesla charging areas that a large vehicle has difficulty accessing).
“Over the past 3 years we have seen the prices of electric trucks falling. When we initially started the program, we were paying close to $200,000 for the trucks. This made them almost double the price of their ICE equivalent and certainly caused a ‘cringe’ effect with the finance manager on capex expenditure.
“We are now seeing the prices sit around 30–40% above the diesel equivalent. The big saving is where you get a ‘full’ solution for charging the vehicle — that is, a solar panels, battery and charge solution. The sky-high diesel prices cost a driver around $100 a day. In contrast, an EV charge is around $15–20 per day. Over the ‘life’ of the vehicle, the saving on fuel cost and maintenance over the diesel motor is significant. The other saving is on tires and brakes, where the ‘regenerative’ braking puts less wear and tear on both tires and brake pads.
“When we initially started our EV journey, there was only one real supplier (SEA). The market is now opening up. However, we are yet to see the traditional OEM operators such as Isuzu/Hino/UD Nissan enter the market with a viable solution. The downside of this is that our owner-driver model, where our drivers purchase the equipment, means they have strong brand loyalty, so convincing our drivers to purchase ‘unknown’ vehicles has been challenging, as they have concerns around warranty and ongoing servicing from a small supplier.”
“The first comment from the drivers was how quiet the vehicle was and the lack of vibration from the diesel motor. Sitting at traffic lights, the driver is far more aware of their ‘environment’ and this has added safety benefits. The other comments include how smooth the vehicle takes off from the lights, and the lack of gears means that the ride is far smoother. The regenerative braking of the vehicles is also quite noticeable going down hills and coming up to traffic lights, so the driving style needs to be adapted from the ‘traditional’ method.
“Finally the use of the vehicle on motorways is a very quick lesson on how to get ‘range anxiety,’ as you can literally see the battery % fall when the vehicle operates over 80 km/h. Keeping the truck off motorways was one of the first things our planners needed to adopt in their routing to keep the vehicle with enough power to return.
“Only point to add is that vans will be able to be taken home by the drivers into residential areas, so there will need to be some consideration around infrastructure when the electric vehicles all arrive home at the same time and everyone switches on their electric equipment . The vans/trucks draw a much larger current from the network, so getting the infrastructure at the home (3-phase) will be important.
“Because the vehicle is so quiet in its operation, we have joked about having to have ‘Mr Whippy’ music piped through large speakers so that children are not injured by the vehicle in residential areas. The downside is that instead of an ice cream, they will get flat-pack furniture.”
APT recently presented at the Noosa EV Expo and Street Fest.
Featured photo courtesy of APT.
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