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Electric vehicles: driving forwards

In an effort to anticipate probable legal developments regarding commercial vehicle traffic in city centres, OCP has been experimenting with alternative solutions for several months. Here is a progress report.

"Clean" vehicles in city centres

OCP is very interested in new transport solutions from two different perspectives. On the one hand, the company wants to find an alternative resource to fossil fuels (which are polluting and expensive); and on the other, it intends to anticipate legal developments restricting the traffic of combustion vehicles in major city centres. "Some restrictions are already in place," notes Jean-Denis Besnard, who is responsible for the organisation and methods in the operations department. "For example, in Bayonne, there is a ban in the very centre and we have to make our deliveries to the four pharmacies using a trolley."

Very precise requirements

Aware of these challenges, two car manufacturers – in this case Gruau and Muse – have suggested that OCP test their electric solutions. "Despite some technical issues (in particular, poor uphill capability), the models demonstrated that an electric vehicle was capable of meeting our requirements," continues Jean-Denis Besnard. The electric vehicle must in essence meet specific demands. "It must be easy to use, sufficiently able to retain enough power to make journeys in and around the city of up to 80 km and it must have load capacity of at least 160 crates," explains Jean-Denis Besnard.

A fully-fledged strategic choice

A second model offered by Gruau and tested at OCP Paris provides the solution to these three constraints. Nonetheless, it is still uncertain whether it will be used: "The electric models are expensive to buy – they are four times more expensive than combustion vehicles – and they present another issue: the power supply to our establishments and their capacity, or lack thereof, to tolerate the connection of these models and their charging time," explains Jean-Denis Besnard. "Finally, even though the current power retention of these electric vehicles meets the needs of trips to urban locations, it does not support journeys longer than 100 km, in other words, the majority of our trips."

For the moment, no decision has yet been made and the search continues for future models (combustion, hybrid or electric) that will carry out deliveries.

Field test

Thierry Duboux, manager of the delivery service for OCP Paris: "The establishment volunteered to test these vehicles, which will probably be essential for driving in Paris in the future. We installed a temporary power outlet in the establishment to recharge the vans and we carried out a partial charge (three hours) on one of them between two trips. On the whole, we did not have any problems retaining power and these models were popular with our drivers and aroused the curiosity of our customers."

Vincent Martinet, driver for OCP Paris: "Electric vehicles make for good working conditions: they are extremely quiet and easy to unload. One of the models tested was equipped with two gears and the other had neither a gear stick nor clutch pedal, which means that both models are easy to drive. The only point to note concerns the surrounding environment: because pedestrians and cyclists cannot hear us, they take liberties (especially when it comes to crossing the road). We must therefore pay particular attention to them."