Call it the president’s choice.
Canada’s largest grocer, which has made a broad commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, is already participating in a related customer group offering insights into test units. And last year it was instrumental in bringing one of the first eCascadia prototypes to B.C. for a test run.
“It’s on the boards, so we’re all pretty excited about it,” says Nova Truck Centres president and CEO Peter Macgillivray, referring to the letter of intent. The first two units are to be delivered in 2022, with the remaining three to come in successive years.
The staggered rollout is to ensure the fleet can gain experience with evolving versions of the truck, says Wayne Scott, Loblaw’s senior director – transport maintenance.
‘It can only get better’
“There’s going to be a lot of changes, and I know that,” he explains. “Even if it’s going to change, it can only get better. I hope the range gets better as well.”
There are still real-world applications for eCascadias that promise an initial range of about 400 km per charge. About one in five Loblaw trips venture no further than 100 km from a distribution center.
“With the diminished loads in groceries, we should be able to get more (range) than that, which puts it into serving our DC-to-store deliveries in any province,” Scott adds.
The test in B.C. displayed performance benefits, too. During that run, an eCascadia loaded to an 80,000-lb. gross vehicle weight traveled up a 12% grade with ease, and silently passed a gravel truck that had a 150-meter head start, he says.
Since then, Freightliner’s Innovation Fleet of 30 electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks has accumulated about 300,000 miles (about 480,000 km) of real-world experience.
Loblaw has yet to determine exactly where in Canada the first units will be based. Scott says that decision will be dictated by factors such as available grants and electricity costs, which can vary by region.
Loblaw’s focus on electrification doesn’t end there. It has been actively testing options ranging from a solar-powered reefer to electric Terberg yard tractor. It was one of the first Canadian fleets to pre-order the yet-built Tesla Semis, and also explored electric Volvo VNR and BYD trucks.
“They’ve always been on the forefront of all this new technology and green initiatives,” says Macgillivray.