Grocery wholesaler adds zero-emissions technology to delivery fleet

UNFI tractor-trailer

United Natural Foods, Inc. recently announced it is deploying two battery-electric semi-trucks and five regenerative electric refrigerated trailer systems in the Sacramento and Gilroy, California markets, just in time for the peak holiday selling season.

UNFI worked with Penske Truck Leasing to secure two, class-8 electric trucks, which include the Freightliner eCascadia, and the Volvo VNR Electric models. Both vehicles are equipped for safety and driver comfort and include air-ride seats, air suspension, easy charging, and ample battery range and torque to meet UNFI’s typical freight hauling and delivery needs.

UNFI said it will combine these trucks with refrigerated trailers cooled by Carrier’s Vector™ eCool™ transport refrigeration unit. The all-electric Vector eCool uses power generated by ConMet eMobility’s nMotion TR 160-45, an in-wheel electric motor application that repurposes energy captured during coasting and braking. The combination of clean, regenerated energy and Carrier’s Vector unit will help UNFI keep customers’ deliveries cold while creating zero emissions.

UNFI said the combination of these trucks and trailers will reduce fleet fuel life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and harmful pollutants while delivering more efficiently and cost-effectively to our customers.

“The introduction of these efficient electric trucks and refrigerated trailers is a huge step forward, not only toward lowering our delivery costs-per-mile and achieving our own clean transportation goals, but also in helping UNFI achieve California’s ambitious goals on the adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” said Nick Selders, vice president of Transportation at UNFI. “Implementing this zero-emission delivery solution will enable us to become more cost-efficient and prevent hundreds of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere per year.

"It was the combination of efforts from our partners at Penske, ConMet, Carrier, and PLM Fleet that enabled UNFI to put this zero-emission delivery solution together. They have all been fantastic to work with and we are looking forward to bringing more battery-electric rigs online.”

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UNFI is a premier grocery wholesaler delivering a variety of fresh, branded, and owned brand products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce providers, and food service customers. 

“We’re pleased to collaborate with innovative customers like UNFI as they implement their fleet electrification initiatives and advance their sustainability commitments,” said Patrick Watt, vice president, Alternative Vehicle and Emerging Technology at Penske Truck Leasing. “We were able to accelerate this project with funding through California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). The availability of HVIP funding is important as it helps fleets offset a portion of the incremental costs of implementing new, commercial electric vehicle technologies.”

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the creativity and collaboration that go into bringing truly sustainable transport refrigeration solutions to market,” said Alice DeBiasio, Vice President and General Manager, Truck Trailer Americas and Digital Solutions, Carrier. “We’re excited to see our Vector eCool units, using energy recovery and storage from the ConMet eMobility system, improve UNFI’s efficiency and environmental impact.”