The Royal Mail has announced it is to trial nine electric commercial vehicles to transport post between mail distribution centres in London and the South East.

The postal firm said it would begin the trial at its Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in London with three six-tonne trucks from this month, followed by three 3.5-tonne vans and three 7.5-tonne trucks later on this year.

The vehicles are produced by British start-up Arrival – formerly known as Charge – with the Royal Mail being the first fleet to use the vehicles, which are built in Banbury.

Arrival claimed it is possible to build the vehicles in four hours, with the 3.5-tonne van constructed from ultra-lightweight materials that it claimed help reduce operational costs by up to 50%.

The van is capable of travelling for up to 100 miles emission-free while for longer journeys a petrol ‘dual mode’ can be used to top up the battery and extend its range to 500 miles.

All the vehicles will receive over-the-air updates similar to those of a smartphone, and the firm claimed the models are built to conform with future driverless vehicle regulations for which they can be ready “at the push of a button”.

“Royal Mail is delighted to be collaborating with Arrival and pioneering the adoption of large electric commercial vehicles,” said Paul Gatti, managing director of Royal Mail Fleet. “We are pleased to be the first fleet operator to take delivery of and trial these new larger payload vehicles, which will complement the 100 electric vans we recently ordered. We will be putting them through their paces over the next several months to see how they cope with the mail collection demands from our larger sites.”
Denis Sverdlov, CEO of Arrival, added: “Cities like London will benefit hugely from a switch to electric, in terms of both pollution and noise. Most importantly we are priced the same as diesel trucks, removing the main barrier to go electric.”