Japan’s Environment Ministry in cooperation with automakers will begin test development in fiscal 2021 on electric trucks used in logistics operations for convenience stores and other businesses as part an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The ministry plans to seek funds for the testing under the government’s budget for the fiscal year starting in April 2021.
Some major convenience store operators have introduced rechargeable electric trucks on a trial basis, but only on a limited scale because it takes time to charge the vehicles, making their efficient use difficult.
In the test, the ministry will develop electric trucks with replaceable batteries, officials said.
The trucks will be tested for short-distance transportation of goods from distribution centers to convenience stores. The plan calls for the batteries to be charged with electricity generated locally using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, and installed on the trucks at distribution centers, the officials said.
The ministry also hopes that such logistics centers can be used for the delivery of food and other relief supplies to shelters in times of disasters. Businesses taking part in the test will be asked to conclude an agreement with relevant local governments to use the centers as emergency distribution bases.
If distribution centers are equipped with power sources outside the normal grid networks, emergency supplies can be delivered more easily during disasters using the trucks, with their swappable batteries, even during power outages, the officials said. The officials noted that the system could also make possible the delivery of fresh, chilled and frozen food items.
The ministry is also considering delivering the batteries to evacuation centers for use as a power source if needed, the officials said.
Electric motorcycles with replaceable batteries have already been developed.
Japan Post Co., a unit of Japan Post Holdings Co., has introduced such vehicles for its mail delivery services. Some other companies, including food delivery service firms, are also using them.