The delicate art of integrating alternative energies in transportation

Published on 1 September 2021 - 6 minute(s) read

French refrigerated transportation company Delanchy has a long-standing commitment to reducing its environmental footprint by adopting sustainable energies for its trucks. As numerous new technologies emerge while costs remain high, it takes genuine conviction to pave the way. And it’s often the large fleets that set the example and are the first actors of change!

 

post roadstories delanchy photo1

post roadstories delanchy photo1

 

Joseph Delanchy founded his transport company in 1968 to deliver fresh seafood daily from the coast of Brittany to Paris and Lyon. A man with ideas ahead of his time and a strong appetite for technological innovation, he had in mind to conduct his activity while preserving the environment as much as possible. To this day, sustainability is part of Delanchy’s DNA. The group, which has remained specialized in non-frozen fresh products while expanding internationally, is constantly trying new solutions to help bring about a more eco-friendly transport industry.

“Over the past few years, we’ve increased our investments in alternative energies and intensified our work with partners such as manufacturers”, explains Nicolas Muet, Delanchy’s Director of External Communications and Partnerships*. “These are new and expensive technologies, but we want to be actors of change, so we are investing in them out of conviction.”

All green technologies

As a result of this conviction, the company’s fleet that serves France as well as most of Western Europe is up to the latest environmental standards. It also includes 40 trucks that run on natural gas and two 100% electric vehicles, one of which is a prototype. “For the first in Lyon, it was part of our partnership with Renault Trucks”, says Nicolas. “We were able to put this truck in use in 2017 and provide them with real-life feedback. And when they added a refrigerated truck to their electric range in 2020, we bought the very first model. Now makes daily runs in the Paris area, replacing a diesel truck on its route.”

On top of progressively replacing diesel vehicles with alternative energy ones, Delanchy is also experimenting with new forms of energy solutions that come to market: biodiesel and alternative fuels, and hydrogen. 

The DELANCHY Group has remained family-owned and independent. Brigitte and Frédéric (two of Mr Delanchy's children), who run the company today, have the same vision as their father and are convinced of the interest of hydrogen for transport.

They have been keeping a close eye on the development of this new and much hyped energy for several years. In 2020, a partnership was signed with CHEREAU, a truck body manufacturer, to test the refrigerated semi-trailer they had developed where the refrigeration system is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. “We’ll be the first to be use their pre-series model when it comes out, early 2022”, adds Nicolas. “We’re also in contact with other manufacturers to test fully hydrogen-powered trucks soon.”

Helping to accelerate innovation

The underlying principle governing Delanchy’s strategy is to participate in the development of alternative energies, and help them become mature technologies faster by investing now instead of waiting for prices to go down later. “We do our part, and then we buy the technology when it’s ready”, sums up Nicolas. “We don’t want changes to be imposed on us, that’s why we’re one of the only companies that experiments and invests in all the alternative energies. We’re just a transportation company, but we can help manufacturers innovate.”

The same principle applies to every other aspect of Delanchy’s activities, from tyres that are systematically regrooved and retreaded to increase their longevity and reduce resource consumption, to buildings, for which the company applies the highest environmental standards: it has been installing solar panels wherever possible and keeping a high level of employee awareness on sustainability. 

The all-important human factor

Why emphasize employee awareness? Because the human factor is a crucial yet often overlooked element in the implementation of sustainability policies. Nicolas explains that Delanchy has been training its drivers on subjects such as eco-driving and fuel consumption reduction for a long time. “We want to keep that same level of training and awareness when it comes to alternative energies”, he says. “For example, electric truck drivers need to adapt their driving to increase battery autonomy. You just can’t leave out the human factor when adopting new technologies.”

So what do the company’s drivers think about it all? All those who tested electric trucks for example are convinced, says Nicolas. They enjoy the silence, the fluidity, and the fact that they are contributing to changing the image of transportation from a dirty, polluting industry. “Most of our drivers feel strongly about the necessity to reduce emissions, so they are receptive and willing.”

Of course, switching to clean energy doesn’t come without its hiccups and difficulties. Electric trucks don’t offer the same versatility as their combustion engine counterparts because recharging times and facilities need to be taken into account. Even for natural gas vehicles, refuelling can sometimes be a problem, with long waiting lines because the infrastructure isn’t quite fully developed even though it’s a mature technology. 

As for hydrogen, it’s still early days, but like for all budding technologies, it’s a matter of chicken or egg: someone has to get the ball rolling for it to truly take off and become a competitive clean energy, and Delanchy wants to play its part in that.

*Interview of Nicolas Muet, Delanchy’s Director of External Communications and Partnerships, on 1st june 2021.

 

A few tips before switching to clean transportation

Nicolas Muet has a few words of advice for transportation companies wishing to transition their fleet of trucks away from fossil fuels.

First of all, it’s important to believe in the direction you’re taking and have the conviction that adopting alternative energies is good for your business in addition to being good for the planet.

It also helps to be curious about new tech and innovation. Having an “early adopter” state of mind is a natural incentive for companies who like to anticipate changes rather than wait for them.

post roadstories delanchy photo2

post roadstories delanchy photo2

post roadstories delanchy photo3

post roadstories delanchy photo3

 

As mentioned, new technologies are by essence expensive ones. Only financially healthy companies that can afford the necessary investments will be capable of paving the way towards alternative energies.

That being said, taking part in discussion groups is another useful way of participating in the development of new energies and their ecosystem. Things are evolving so fast that it’s fundamental to get everyone around the table in order to find the best solutions and bring about these necessary changes together.

   

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Delanchy uses this Michelin two best fuel efficient tyres:

  • For long haul transport: X® LINE™ ENERGY™ Z2 / D2 (22.5)
     The latest rolling resistance technology for your Truck!
  • For regional transport: X® MULTI™ ENERGY™ Z / D
    You drive on motorways, highways and regional roads, and deliver everywhere, in all conditions. You want tyres that reduce your fuel consumption.

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