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Sharing best practice, highs & lows

This past year has been super busy at FareShare Sussex! In the midst of a global pandemic, we supported over 40 extra food projects, doubled our food volumes AND managed a new electric vehicle project in the mix.

Funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the year long pilot project, helped us to buy an electric van and an electric cargo bike and test them as part of our surplus food fleet.  The overall aim of the project was to help us to increase the amount of food we deliver whilst reducing our carbon footprint and toxic emissions from our deliveries. Electric vehicles are currently very expensive, so without the funding we’d not have been able to cut our emissions.

Kelly Dibbert, Development Manager

At the end of the pilot year we asked Nathan to reflect on his experiences as Project Coordinator for the year. 

Highlight #1: We had an electric van and it was awesome” – Nathan 

Nathan told us that the initial delivery of the electric van in July 2020 was the first big moment in the project where it felt real. 

‘It had been a critical previous month, having just started at FareShare, understanding the project and organisational needs and putting plans in place. I agreed on the delivery date with Heathrow LDV and started planning when staff and volunteers would receive their training. When it arrived, everyone was really keen to give it a go. The team could see that this was a big step forward for us in terms of sustainability and the future of our deliveries’.

Highlight #2: More, more, more! 

Another milestone was marked in August 2020 when Lara joined the project as the Sourcing & Logistics Coordinator. Her job was to work with the warehouse to best integrate the electric vehicles to the operation with the goal of recruiting new local suppliers and volunteers as well as increasing the volume of food delivered. She hit the ground running and successfully recruited 20 new local food suppliers and trained over 20 volunteers. This meant that 114 tonnes of additional food surplus could be redistributed. 

Highlight #3: “The bike looked great” – Nathan 

After the first set back in November 2020, the re-delivery of the electric bike in January 2021 was a real relief. Nathan notes the bike had a brilliant design created by a local illustrator (Sandra Staufer) and designer (Excell Designs)

Facing some challenges 

This project really shows that the path to success is not a straight line! The EAV e-cargo bike then had a significant number of issues and due to breakdowns arrangements often had to be moved. This also made recruiting and training volunteers to use the bike difficult but our growing team of enthusiastic riders didn’t let this stop them! The manufacturer tried to help us as best they could but ultimately the bike didn’t match our needs.

All’s well that ends well!

The arrival of the initial loan Iceni e-trike in April 2021 was a huge breakthrough. Nathan explains how this kick started work again, ‘The Iceni liked going up hills. It had a bigger cargo box and could carry more weight. It handled more like a regular bike and had good all round rider visibility’, so we decided to buy one.

Best practice for other FareShare regional centres or businesses wanting to go electric:

  • Make sure you have your van charger installed before the vehicle/s arrive.
  • Make sure the refrigerated van has its own battery. 

In our case, the van wasn’t driven much for 4 weeks, which caused issues with the 12v battery going flat and all sorts of other related problems.

  • Test drive as many bikes or vans as you can, if you can, before you decide. 

Speak to local e-bike courier companies (like Zedify) to see what works for them and see if you can partner up with them for maintenance support of your bike. 

  • Ideally the electric van should be registered initially to take the higher payload. To make electric vans effectively replace a diesel with a 1 tonne payload you need to invest in extra training for drivers.

Here we go a little bit technical, but bear with us. Electric vans have a smaller payload due to the weight of the battery. But you can have a similar payload to their diesel equivalents if drivers take five hours of training. 

What are the benefits of having Electric Vehicles? 

The vehicles have both proven that zero emissions deliveries are achievable for FareShare. They increase the amount of food we are able to deliver whilst not increasing our fleet emissions and costing significantly less per mile to run – 25p per mile for diesel vans and 10p per mile for the electric van and e-cargo bike. Our electric van prevented 2806kg of direct carbon dioxide emissions in its first year. With the electric vehicles being charged on site we also save time not having to refuel them at petrol stations each week.

The electric van created extra capacity for us to initially recruit 32 more Community Food Members, the organisations we deliver our food to. 

One of our EV drivers, Shahin, mentions a positive side effect of the electric vehicle: ‘It’s much quieter on the motorways, which makes it easier to have a conversation!’. 

Chris, a lead volunteer says ‘It’s a pleasure to drive. It’s very nifty on the roads compared to our diesel vans. I definitely see electric vehicles being the future of deliveries at FareShare.’

We are delighted to help FareShare Sussex in its important work through the Resource Action Fund. Resource efficiency projects such as this will help us achieve our goal of preventing waste, and better managing our precious natural resources.

– Peter Maddox, Director WRAP

Conclusion

Now that the initial issues of using electric vehicles are resolved, and they are integrated into our service these will be a long term part of our fleet. Ultimately, we are closer to our goal to tackle food waste, fight hunger, and reduce carbon emissions. 

We wish Nathan the best in his future role and deeply thank WRAP for the funding. The project would not have been possible without the funding from WRAP which is an £18 million fund, provided by Defra and supports resource efficiency projects in England in the key areas of food, plastics, textiles, recycling and litter.

There are lots of ways that you can get involved, and support our project: 

Volunteer to be an E – cargo bike volunteer: https://faresharesussex.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer-with-us/ 

Donate food from your food business here:https://faresharesussex.org.uk/get-involved/give-food/ 

If you’re a charity that needs food, or if you would like further information about the project, please email our Development Manager: kelly@faresharesussex.org.uk