Harris aims to deliver across supply chain with electric fleet

As deliveries become ever more important, energy efficiency and reducing pollution have risen to the top of the agenda, says Harris Group boss Denise Harris

Harris Group management team: Barry McGrane, chief financial officer; Mark Barrett, managing director, group franchises; Brian Patterson, group managing director; John Keogh, managing director, retail operations and Denise Harris, chief executive

While electric vehicles (EVs) are hardly starved of attention these days it is notable that the majority of attention is paid to private cars. And yet, there are many more vehicles on the roads than cars. From buses to lorries and, perhaps most crucial of all, the vans which form the backbone of a complex logistics and delivery network ensuring that society keeps moving.

Denise Harris, chief executive of commercial vehicle distributor Harris Group said that EVs are now seen as ideal vehicles for last-mile deliveries in terms of reduced emissions and clean air, something now particularly important in city centres.

However, they also have direct benefits for their owners and operators, she said.

“EVs are also more cost-efficient and they require less maintenance, which has obvious benefits for the companies deploying them. With many businesses placing an emphasis on ESG goals, we are witnessing an increase in the numbers of enquiries and sales, as more companies seek to electrify their fleet and make shorter routes more environmentally friendly”.

Indeed, electric vans are now a common sight on the streets of many European towns and cities, but what about more far-flung locations or the longer journeys that form a core part of the supply chain?

Here too EVs can play a significant role, Harris said, as choosing to drive an electric vehicle for longer journeys has its benefits.

“All Harris Group electric vehicles are suitable for longer journeys. For example, the Maxus eDeliver 9 boasts an impressive range of 353 km and a fast charge of 80 per cent in 45 minutes, while the Maxus eDeliver 7 has a range of 362 km. Both vehicles can get the driver from Dublin to Cork with just one charge, with 100 km of driving distance to spare,” she said.

Both vehicles can get the driver from Dublin to Cork with just one charge, with 100 km of driving distance to spare

For many of Harris Group’s customers, the decision to purchase an electric van or bus is rooted in the significant cost savings, Harris said, however there are further benefits including the improved driving comfort due to the silent engine, and the reduction in carbon emissions.

“By reducing fuel costs and taking advantage of government incentives and tax benefits, businesses can benefit from significant savings,” she said.

However, one crucial ingredient for successful conversion to 100 per cent electric transport is adequate and accessible charging infrastructure, and work has been under way to develop one. Nevertheless, Harris said that more needed to be done.

“There are now over 265,000 EVs on Irish roads. However, in the latest car figures for the first three months of 2024, new EV sales are down 14.2 per cent on the same period last year, while overall car sales are up. This highlights the ongoing challenge of electrification”.

The government has been active in delivering on its Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2025, she said, but rollout has been slow, often due to delays in providing the necessary connections from the electricity grid and some parts of the country could be left behind.

“If we are serious about decarbonising transport, there is a pressing need for political leadership to address the current barriers and delays impacting the rollout of publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure.

“What is required are ambitious delivery targets backed by increased investment and effective implementation, including speed-up of planning and approval of EV infrastructure installation, usage of renewable energies to power these chargers and increasing the funding under the Alternatively Fuelled Heavy Goods Vehicle Grant Purchase Scheme,” Harris said.

Of course, retailers and wholesalers can take matters into their own hands by installing their own infrastructure. This can be at the premises or even at home.

“The retailer will need to determine the charging infrastructure requirements, evaluate electrical capacity, select the right charging infrastructure (Level 1, Level 2, DC fast charging) and plan the charging station location, Harris said.

The Electric Vehicle Home Charger scheme assists residents and homeowners to install an electric vehicle, while businesses can apply for the Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA), a tax incentive that aims to encourage companies to invest in energy-saving technology.

“The ACA allows for the money spent on eligible energy efficient capital equipment to be fully deducted in the year of purchase, essentially reducing their tax bill and increasing cash flow,” Harris said.

Ultimately, Harris said, the future of transport, including commercial vehicles, was electric and, as a result, growing the support infrastructure will be an investment in the future.

“The number of EVs on Irish roads is only going to rise in the future. Therefore, delivery of lasting and scalable charging infrastructure should be a key priority for government as many businesses look to reap the many benefits of electrifying their fleet,” she said.