News article

Meet our Electric Freightway consortium members – A.F. Blakemore & Son

A.F. Blakemore & Son

Each day brings more stuff. Whether it’s food, toys, tech, clothes that we’ll wear once and then cram into the back of a cupboard, we like to measure our self-worth by stuff. We’re on iPhone 14, for goodness sake, and yet we still want to trade because the next one has a titanium case…

The point is the world revolves around stuff, and pretty much all that stuff is delivered to our doors with the help of trucks. Big trucks driven by the likes of A.F. Blakemore & Son.

Who is A.F. Blakemore & Son?

We’re glad you asked. Founded in 1917, A.F. Blakemore & Son is one of the UK’s largest privately owned family businesses that operates across the retail and foodservice sectors. From its humble beginnings as a counter-service grocery store, it has grown into a national business that employs more than 7,000 people and has a turnover of circa £1.3 billion.

A.F. Blakemore & Son Bedford Depot

It owns 263 SPAR stores across England and Wales and is the primary SPAR wholesaler. It also owns Philpotts, a chain of prepared-food stores, Vegan Store and has a pretty substantial fleet comprising 103 articulated units, 178 trailers and 130 rigid Heavy Goods Vehicles. Most importantly for the Electric Freightway programme, it’s one of the major hauliers in our 33-member consortium helping us decarbonise the nation’s heavy goods transport.

Why choose A.F Blakemore & Son?

Because it’s already preparing for net zero and is determined to keep trucking in the electric era. Sure, the vast majority of today’s HGVs may be powered by diesel, but companies like A.F. Blakemore & Son have the scale and ambition to change the paradigm and quickly. The potential for positive impact is huge.

You only have to read the company values to know how committed A.F. Blakemore & Son is to addressing climate change. It has committed all operations to be net zero carbon by 2040 and its network of distribution centres across Willenhall, Darlaston, Tipton, Bedford, Wakefield and Talbot Green already exhibit plenty of carbon-saving initiatives.

Some sites are using solar PV, many of the refrigerated trailers are powered by hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), and even rainwater is being captured to be reused for truck washing. By the end of 2024, the company car fleet will be 85% electric, too.

How will A.F. Blakemore & Son be involved?

Everybody knows the world needs to switch away from burning fossil fuels to using clean, renewable sources of energy as quickly as possible and this company is on the same page.

A.F. Blakemore and SPAR logos

However, the price of an electric Heavy Goods Vehicle (eHGV) is more than twice the price of a conventional diesel-powered truck. Not something any business with margins to protect wants to hear. So, thanks to this funding from Department for Transport, delivered by Innovate UK, consortium members like A.F. Blakemore & Son will have the opportunity to buy or lease state-of-the-art eHGVs from the programme’s vehicle manufacturer partners at a vastly subsidised rate. This will help bridge the price gap and enable zero emission trucks to be incorporated into business-as-usual operations today.

The company is keen to decarbonise as quickly as it can, so Electric Freightway will offer that necessary evidence-based approach, thanks to the data collection, analysis and reporting provided by principal partner Hitachi ZeroCarbon.

Sustained high speeds on motorways aren’t the greatest places for any electric vehicle to shine, so it may be that urban delivery routes with back-to-base depot charging are prioritised first. But that’s what the Electric Freightway programme is all about: if companies start out today, the journey to decarbonise doesn’t have to look so daunting.

Over the life of the programme, and with more confidence in routes and public eHGV charging, more use cases could be unlocked. We’re looking forward to supporting their decarbonisation journey and hope that others will follow their lead.