As part of its ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and sustainability of its fleet, Wegmans Food Markets is currently exploring electrification through a trial of Phoenix-based Nikola’s Tre battery-electric vehicle demonstration unit.
According to the grocer, trialing new technologies helps it understand the capabilities and reliability of the technology, the infrastructure needed to operate the vehicle, and how it might fit into the company’s fleet in the future. The process also helps Wegmans determine whether the technology can help it achieve its three main goals: reducing its carbon footprint, lowering noise pollution and enhancing safety.
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“Eliminating diesel is our goal for today, but we’re also looking to the future and our ultimate goal of operating a carbon-free fleet,” noted Matt Harris, sustainability manager for energy and fleet technology for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans. “We’re likely a decade or more away from being able to achieve that goal; the technology just isn’t where it needs to be to do the job we need it to do. But that doesn’t mean we just sit back and wait. We’re constantly working with technology providers and trialing new technologies to understand what they can and can’t do, and to be part of the innovation process, helping to ensure the technology is headed in a direction that works for real-world applications.”
In measuring the sustainability of a class-8 electric truck, Wegmans must look into the fossil fuels needed to produce and properly dispose of the batteries, and the strain on the electric supply grid, among other considerations.
Added Harris: “The pilot is all about learning. We need to understand electrification in order to understand the next generation of trucks – trucks that achieve a lower carbon intensity score than their diesel counterparts through a combination of technologies and the use of cleaner fuels. Those are the trucks that will allow us to bridge the 10-to-20-year gap between now and when a cost-effective, alternative truck is readily available in the marketplace and can truly do what a diesel-powered truck does today – without compromise.”
Although a fleet of fully electric trucks isn’t currently in the offering for Wegmans, a successful pilot could lead to the addition of one, or even a few, electric trucks to its fleet.
“It’s all about the application of the technology,” explained Harris. “During the pilot, we’re using the Nikola demo unit for shuttle work – moving product around Rochester and mixing in a few store deliveries. If the truck performs well, helps us achieve our goals and makes sense for our business, then there could be a spot for it in our fleet.”
Family-owned Wegmans operates more than 100 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The company is No. 34 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.