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The Shoprite Group Becomes The First South African Retailer To Pilot A Heavy Duty Electric Truck

The Shoprite Group is South Africa’s largest retailer by market capitalization, sales, profit, and number of employees and customers. Shoprite operates in 11 African countries, and has more than 2,900 stores across Africa. The Shoprite Group is expanding its key environmental programs as part of its sustainability strategy.

One the major components of this strategy is the accelerated rollout of solar PV at its supermarkets and distribution centers. The total installed capacity from these onsite solar plants so far now stands at 26.6 MW! This is enough to meet 2.8% of the group’s electricity needs. Shoprite has a target of increasing this to meet 5% of its electricity needs by the end of this financial year. Shoprite plans to meet all its electricity requirements from renewables by 2050 through a combination of onsite solar, offsite solar, offsite wind, and other renewables.

The Shoprite Group is also growing its solar-assisted fleet of trailers for their trucks. The Group now has 903 trucks and 1,360 trailers. Of these, 1,041 trailers now have solar panels installed on the roof to support refrigeration loads. The solar panels are also used to power tail lifts for the rest of the non-refrigerated fleet. The solar panels on their refrigerated trailers allow operators to switch off the diesel engine when the trucks are stationary. The solar panels on the trailers have helped to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and 3,290 tCO2 have been saved from avoided diesel use by the solar powered fleet.

To help drive its sustainability drive, The Shoprite Group recently finalized sustainability-linked loans worth R3.5 billion ($200 million) for investments to expand its key environmental projects. The loans include a R2 billion ($113.7 million) loan from Standard Bank, which is the bank’s biggest in the South African retail sector to date, an R800 million ($46.5 million) sustainability-linked loan, and a R700 million ($39.8 million) green loan, a first in the retail sector from RMB for investment in environmental projects. A further sustainability-linked loan is in the pipeline.

In more awesome news, the Shoprite Group announced today that it is the first South African retailer to pilot a heavy-duty electric truck as part of its fleet. 28-year-old Robin Jooste from Colorado Park Mitchells Plain has been selected to drive it. Jooste is excited to have been selected as the driver of this unique vehicle. “I hope to break the mould and encourage more women to consider a career in truck driving,” she says.

Truck driver Robin Jooste receives the keys to the Shoprite Group’s first electric truck from CEO Pieter Engelbrecht.

The Scania battery-electric heavy duty truck is a refrigerated truck and can hold approximately 16 pallets. It has nine batteries totaling 300 kWh. It has CCS type 2 plug-in connection with up to 130 kW / 200A DC charging. It has a range of 350 km in city driving cycles, depending on the load. It also has a permanent magnet electric motor rated at 295 kW 2,200 Nm (peak) and 230 kW 1,300 Nm (continuous). The truck has solar panels fitted to its roof and a fully electric cooling system which is also powered by the battery packs of the vehicle.

The vehicle will be used for local deliveries and will be recharged using renewable energy generated by the Group’s existing solar installations. In another first in South Africa, the truck’s special “glow in the dark” signage will make it more visible when traveling at night. When exposed to bright (day) light, the signage can absorb and store particles. This stored energy is again emitted when it’s dark, resulting in a glow.

“As Africa’s largest grocery retailer, the Shoprite Group places significant focus on reducing its environmental impact across its operations. One of the ways we’re doing this is by increasing the energy efficiency of our truck fleet. The acquisition of this, one of the world’s most advanced electric trucks, which we will charge using our existing renewable energy infrastructure, is another major move in this direction,” says Andrew Havinga, Chief Supply Chain Officer for the Group.

We have been waiting for large electric trucks to really enter mass production for a while now. The trucking industry is a major contributor of emissions around the globe, which is why there has been so much excitement around the forthcoming Tesla Semi and other trucks. Volvo and Mercedes are also quite active in this space. It’s really great to see that some of these electric trucks like this Scania truck are now being piloted in South Africa. We hope to see more South African firms join in on the action so that more of these electric trucks start finding their way to this part of the world.


Images courtesy of  The Shoprite Group

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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