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Flipkart plans to roll out electric vehicles for last-mile deliveries

Flipkart is also setting up necessary charging infrastructure at its hubs in order to deploy EVs at large scale.

Walmart-owned e-commerce firm Flipkart on Thursday unveiled plans to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) for its last-mile deliveries across the country. The initiative is part of Flipkart’s sustainability commitment to reinvigorate efforts towards building technologies for solving crucial environment and civic issues, the company said.

Flipkart plans to roll out electric vehicles for last-mile deliveries

“Our team is working with local ecosystem partners to help them co-design concepts for electric vehicles best suited for the growing e-commerce industry,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, group chief executive officer, Flipkart. The introduction of EVs, the company said, would happen in a phased manner. The aim is to replace nearly 40 per cent of its existing last mile fleet of delivery vans with EVs by March 2020. To start with, the company is looking at deploying nearly 160 e-vans by the end of 2019.

At present, Flipkart has already deployed eight e-vans in Hyderabad, 10 in New Delhi and 30 e-bikes in Bengaluru. “We see tremendous growth opportunity in electric freight mobility from a greener supply chain perspective, which will play a key role in building a robust supply chain for the future,” said Amitesh Jha, senior vice-president, Ekart and Marketplace, Flipkart. “These efforts will help us contribute towards electric mobility by reducing our dependence on conventional power sources, while bringing cost efficiencies for the business.”

Flipkart will also be working closely with EV manufacturers to get the right designs suitable for e-commerce deliveries. In the past six months, the e-commerce firm had conducted multiple pilots for deployment of EVs in its supply chain. It is also setting up the necessary charging infrastructure at its hubs in order to deploy EVs at large scale and ensure their seamless operations.

Rajneesh Kumar, chief corporate affairs officer, Flipkart, said the company would use its existing infrastructure at warehouses and hubs to overcome challenges such as charging stations and electricity for the vehicles. “Eventually, our vision is to completely make the last and first mile (delivery) electric.” With these initiatives, the company is looking at reducing its carbon emissions by over 50 per cent.

Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader, e-commerce and consumer internet at EY India, said electrification of last mile delivery platforms (both hyperlocal and logistic arm of companies) was a crucial step towards curbing pollution.

He said adoption at scale would help in bringing down costs of production of EVs, more acceptability towards this mode of transport and would spur innovation for the betterment of this technology.

“It will help in bringing down their maintenance and delivery cost which in turn has a positive effect on their unit economics. It will also help brands position themselves as environment-friendly and socially conscious,” said Pahwa. With the government’s aim to have at least 30 per cent of vehicles be EV by 2030, the step taken by e-commerce and hyperlocal platforms to adopt this technology could be the tipping point in the right direction,” he added.

There are already a few small firms in the country which provide EVs and services to large e-commerce and foodtech companies. One among them is DOT, which offers green mobility services through its fleet of two- and three-wheeler electric vehicles. Some of its major clients include Amazon, Walmart, BigBasket and Swiggy. Currently operating in over 20 cities, the firm has plans to expand to 600 towns by 2020.

Ride-hailing company Ola has also set up an electric vehicle arm called Ola Electric Mobility (Ola Electric). It is running several pilots, involving charging solutions, battery swapping stations, and deploying vehicles across two, three and four-wheeler segments. Also, in March, Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation said they would invest $300 million in Ola. The deal will see the three companies collaborate towards developing the fleet and mobility solutions, building India-specific EVs and infrastructure.

Green drive

• Flipkart aims to replace 40% of its last-mile fleet of delivery vans with EVs by March 2020

• Through this, the e-commerce firm is looking at reducing its carbon emissions by over 50%

• Company working with local partners to co-design concepts for EVs for e-commerce industry

•The government aims to have at least 30% of vehicles be EVs by 2030

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