Flipkart, the e-commerce giant now controlled by Walmart, is set to replace nearly 40% of its fleet of delivery vans with electric vehicles (EVs) by March 2020.
As a first step, close to 160 e-vans will be deployed across cities by the end of the year, making Flipkart the first e-commerce platform in India to use electric mobility on a mass scale. It is currently using eight EVs in Hyderabad, 10 in New Delhi and 30 electric bikes in Bengaluru.
“The objective is to be hundred percent EV," Amitesh Jha, senior vice president, Ekart and Marketplace, at Flipkart, said in an interview on Thursday.
“How long it will take will obviously depend on multiple kinds of things like, what is the charging capacity, how far they can go, what kind of network we have. But 40% is a number that we feel very confident just based on the manufacturing capability for our partners, as well as our requirement right now that we should be able to do actually within a year."
The move comes at a time when parent Walmart is focusing on using drones for customer deliveries.
Since July, Walmart has filed 97 new drone patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization, according to management accounting firm BDO. In addition to environmental benefits, experts say the focus on EVs makes business sense.
“Usage of EVs in last-mile logistics can help reduce cost of delivery and, hence, improve margins," said Anup Jain, managing partner at Orios Venture Partners, an investment firm. The cost of EV per kilometre of delivery is less than ₹1/km, while it is ₹3.5/km for petrol-based vehicles, he said.
Flipkart plans to work closely with various electric vehicle makers to procure vehicles suitable for e-commerce deliveries.
In the past six months, Flipkart has achieved impressive results in multiple pilots with electric vehicles. Flipkart is also setting up the necessary charging infrastructure at its hubs to prepare for mass deployment of electric vehicles.
“Our team is working with local ecosystem partners to help them co-design concepts for electric vehicles best suited for the growing e-commerce industry," Kalyan Krishnamurthy, group CEO of Flipkart, said in a statement. “We believe these small but meaningful steps in this direction will go a long way in paving the way for larger adoption of EVs in the country."
These efforts will also help Flipkart to more than halve its carbon emissions, the company claimed.