A British engineering firm that works with some of the biggest brands in the aerospace and automotive sectors has brought its experience to commercial vehicle bodybuilding in a move that could transform the home delivery sector.
Coventry-based Penso is launching a new range of ultra-lightweight bodies for 3.5-tonne commercial vehicles which have been carefully designed to tackle all issues facing last mile logistics fleets, namely: reducing carbon footprint, driver shortage, tighter legislation, imminent technology advances in alternative fuels and, today more than ever before, increasing customer demand.
The firm’s new ‘Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods’ offer temperature-controlled and dry freight fleets running 3.5-tonners the ability to carry the same weight of goods in two journeys, that a traditional vehicle delivers in three.
This significant increase, combined with a truly aerodynamic design, improved functionality for drivers, the use of both carbon fibre and recycled plastic, compatibility with diesel, electric and hybrid chassis plus an unparalleled 10-year structural warranty, provides Penso an opportunity to deliver huge efficiency savings for supermarkets, parcel delivery firms and logistics fleets.
The launch is the result of more than 10 years of research by Penso and a £16.3 million investment – half from Penso and half from government matched-funding via the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and Innovate UK. This has helped to fund the installation of a flexible automated robot assembly line housed in a brand new 50,000 ft2 facility which can produce a finished body every 42 minutes.
Production is commencing with two initial models – an e-Grocery Pod as an upgrade for supermarket deliveries and an e-Delivery Pod, based on a Luton van. Ultimately, 30 different pods will be offered including medium- and high-roof van body variants with a choice of single and double compartments, twin rear doors and side-door loading configurations, plus tail-lift options. These will be built across different wheelbases and vehicle platforms to suit a variety of applications and fleets.
Daniel Hurcombe, Managing Director of Penso says: “We have taken an entirely fresh approach, using new materials and processes to unlock major efficiency and sustainability improvements. Crucially, we can offer customers a clear road map to net zero emissions and dramatic improvements in total cost of ownership.
“We’ve started volume production this month, following extensive prototype testing, and we already have an order book with household-name fleets for several hundred vehicles to be built this year. Our new facility is designed to build up to 10,000 pods per annum, and the plan is to ramp up production steadily over the next five years.”
The pods are designed to be compatible with diesel, electric and hybrid models – ensuring the design is future-proofed for next-generation vehicles. All locking mechanisms for the pods are sourced from the chassis manufacturer and connected to the vehicle’s central locking system.
The name Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods reflects the 5,000 recycled plastic bottles used to manufacture each pod, thereby helping to the reduce the volume of plastic waste ending up in the sea.
Blue Ocean e-Grocery Pod
The first Blue Ocean model is a triple compartment temperature-controlled pod for grocery home deliveries, offering the ability to carry 140 totes versus the industry standard of 110 to 120.
This model boosts payload capacity by 47% to an impressive 1,250kg versus an average of 850kg for a traditional 3.5-tonner in this sector. Combined third-party track testing at Millbrook Proving Ground and real-world testing in a customer fleet over a mix of inner-city and suburban routes, with the refrigeration unit running, returned a 34.05mpg fuel economy, based upon a weighted average – versus 24mpg achieved by the existing customer vehicle.
Hurcombe explains: “Our e-Grocery Pod can deliver 2,500kg of products across two delivery cycles, versus three delivery cycles for the traditional product in this sector. By delivering this huge step-up in payload, customers can carry out more deliveries per load, whilst reducing stem mileage, fuel costs, labour costs, emissions and making much more efficient use of capital expenditure.”
Blue Ocean e-Delivery Pod
The second Blue Ocean model will enter production in July 2020 and is an ultra-lightweight Luton van, offering 19m3 of load space and an interior height clearance of 2.4m – perfect for dry freight parcel delivery or the two-person delivery of bulk goods.
Based on the same Sprinter chassis, this model provides a payload capacity of 1,500kg, dependent on the customer’s final specification. Traditional bodies typically give a payload of 900–1,000kg in a similar application, resulting in substantial efficiency gains for operators specifying a Penso-built pod.
Low total cost of ownership
Penso’s 10-year structural warranty means fleets can plan around each pod lasting twice as long as a traditional body in a high-utilisation, frontline fleet. In most applications this will mean transferring the pod onto a new chassis after five years.
Hurcombe explains: “We’ve worked closely with funders on our financial modelling and we are confident the financing and depreciation costs of the pod over 10 years are, at worst, the same as traditional technology. And in many ways they are less expensive, given a regular body would normally need replacing after five years.”
Penso also points to the ease of repair and significant increase in available payload capacity which will more than offset the higher initial capital outlay. And that’s before fleets take account of the benefits of reduced fuel consumption, payload increases and lower stem mileages.
After a decade, either on a single chassis or following a vehicle swap after five years, more than 95% of the structure can be recycled, including the carbon fibre, aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
All Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods come with a 10-year structural warranty as standard, plus a three-year / 150,000-mile warranty on moving parts.
Established in 2005, Penso is a world-leading engineering and manufacturing specialist based in Coventry, providing complete turnkey services to customers across the globe. Its team of more than 200 represents the very best in British design and engineering and the business has heavily invested in developing new and lightweight solutions for the automotive, aerospace, defence and rail sectors. Its full list of capabilities include composites, consulting, concept design and vehicle build, design and engineering, electronics, finite element analysis, interior systems development and supply and niche vehicle build.
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