Pioneering Zero-Emission Delivery: ShipTop and Origin’s Green Journey

For many of us, transitioning to electric passenger vehicles has begun to feel like an inevitability rather than a far-off concept. With the federal government recently announcing a target of 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035, our future with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) seems almost certain. However, some might doubt that large delivery trucks will follow the same upward adoption curve, at least in the short term. The idea of your latest e-commerce purchase arriving at your doorstep via a quiet, sleek electric truck might seem futuristic given the sheer quantity of diesel trucks on the road today.

This guide will explore the work of Vancouver-based trucking & sustainability start-up, Origin (Origin Sustainability Inc.) and their innovative partnership with ShipTop to offer a zero-emission delivery service throughout the Greater Vancouver Area. It will discuss the realities of zero-emission trucking in 2024, as well as challenges the industry faces, and how ShipTop (shipper) and Origin (carrier) are working together to address these challenges.

What is zero-emission trucking and how does it work?

Simply put, a zero-emission truck is a medium/heavy-duty vehicle with no tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, unlike an internal combustion engine (ICE) that produces emissions through a combustion process resulting in carbon dioxide. The two most common types of zero-emission trucks we reference today are battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). While they are not yet perfect substitutes for diesel-powered trucks, both BEVs and FCEVs will play an increasingly important role in decarbonizing transportation and logistics across the globe.

Considering factors such as range, refueling infrastructure, and payload capacity, BEVs will suit shorter deliveries of lighter goods, while FCEVs are better equipped for longer range routes and heavier loads. Put differently, BEVs are a great option for final mile, regional delivery: for example, the Origin truck you might see quietly humming down your street with your latest e-commerce delivery from ShipTop. FCEVs on the other hand will serve more as mid-mile, long haul trucks connecting different distribution centers across cities, provinces, and countries.

An important distinction in the world of transportation is zero-emission vs. carbon alternative fuels. While a thoughtful transition to 100% zero-emission trucks is ultimately policy makers’ goal, low-carbon emission technologies such as renewable diesel (RD), renewable natural gas (RNG), and other renewable & synthetic fuels will bridge current technological gaps to help support the transition to zero-emission. These fuels have the benefit of being readily available to purchase and there’s existing infrastructure and support networks (maintenance, towing etc.) to support low-carbon emission vehicles that run similar powertrains and components to diesel-powered trucks.

Though Origin is actively building a fleet of zero-emission vehicles to support customers in decarbonizing their supply chains, we believe that low-carbon alternative trucks offer another important tool in the arsenal against climate change – one that will help us get to our climate goals faster.

What are some of the challenges faced in the transition to zero-emission delivery?

“Green Premium”

Challenge: A misconception exists that green transportation must be more expensive than traditional diesel-powered transportation. Many stakeholders involved in transportation, whether shippers or carriers, believe that due to the high upfront costs associated with zero-emission vehicles, the shipper and eventually the consumer end up paying more for a comparable service.

Response: Origin is proud to offer rates that are competitive to existing market rates. Yes, the upfront costs of a ZEV are higher than that of a traditional truck, but with strong government grants available and lower operational costs (electricity vs. diesel, no oil changes etc.), Origin can offer strong rates without burdening the shipper or end customer with higher costs. A win-win for the environment and the customer.

Infrastructure

Challenge: As zero-emission trucks become more prolific, clean fueling infrastructure will become more accessible. However, infrastructure is often thought of as a chicken-and-egg problem. What precedes the other? Additionally, who is responsible for building the infrastructure that will support a network of clean trucks? Is it the role of government through subsidies and special funding, or industry through demand related forces?

Response: Adequate infrastructure will continue to be a challenge through the maturity of green transportation and logistics. To tackle this challenge, Origin and ShipTop are using a tested strategy of a “return to base” operation. Origin trucks will charge at ShipTop’s strategically located distribution centres, serving a dense population of urban customers, and will return to base at the end of each working day to recharge for the following day. Origin will use a blend of private capital and provincial government subsidies to purchase and install charging infrastructure, creating a ~300km reliable service area across the Greater Vancouver Area.

Performance and Reliability

Challenge: One might question how a newer technology will perform compared with the conventional option available. Is it reliable? Does it travel far enough? Does it work in different types of weather? Is it safe? All common questions that may cause some apprehension for brands considering a zero-emission delivery service. Understandably, shipping is not core to many customers’ businesses. It’s a necessary service that must be fast, reliable, safe, and affordable.

Response: Origin has successfully deployed a zero-emission Lion 6 truck (5-ton) to service customers in the Okanagan Valley. The truck has performed excellently in different weather conditions and in different topography, hauling cabinetry and other heavy products. The general feedback so far? The truck is smooth, quiet, and efficient. It’s reliable and safe, successfully completing 100% of customer deliveries in 2023. It reliably operates within a ~150 km radius of its hub in Kelowna, following the same “return to base” strategy employed by Origin and ShipTop in the Greater Vancouver Area. Origin and ShipTop understand the basic requirement for fast, reliable, safe, and affordable e-commerce fulfillment. That’s why we’re following a tried-and-true model, replicating what’s been deployed in a different part of the province.

What’s the largest benefit to ShipTop’s customers?

By partnering with ShipTop and Origin, brands can begin to communicate with their end customers about zero-emission delivery. They can begin to set themselves apart from competitors by offering a more sustainable product that considers the associated emissions across different points of the product’s lifecycle. For brands that hold sustainability as a core value or are making genuine efforts to decarbonize, using sustainable transportation may be a feather in the cap, helping build brand equity, attract new customers, retain existing customers etc.

Apart from the direct benefits to a brand, there are numerous indirect benefits to using a zero-emission transportation service. Existing zero-emission trucking partnerships across the country have reported pros such as reduced noise and air pollution in residential neighborhoods. While these could seem like trivial benefits, they directly impact the health and wellness of the communities in which brands operate; the tangible look and feel of a zero-emission Origin truck delivering a customer’s package may be just the confidence that customer needs to help influence their next purchase decision.

To find out more about ShipTop and Origin’s partnership, please visit shiptop.com.