Phononic, Sortimo turn Ford E-Transit into temp-controlled van for grocery delivery

Upfit solution creates flexible option for chilled, frozen or general merchandise deliveries

 Brian Straight Follow on TwitterWednesday, August 24, 2022

 3 minutes read

 Phononic and Sortimo have combined forces to create a temperature-controlled Ford E-Transit upfit option for grocery last-mile delivery providers. (Photo: Phononic)

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As more Americans turn to online grocery shopping, the need for temperature-controlled last-mile delivery vehicles continues to grow. Two companies with complementary expertise have joined forces to turn a standard Ford E-Transit electric van into a custom last-mile delivery vehicle designed specifically for grocery retailers.

Phononic, which manufactures solid state cooling solutions, and van shelving solutions provider Sortimo have developed the Phononic EV offering. The electric E-Transit features an upfit combination of Phononic’s Actively Cooled Tote and custom shelving from Sortimo to provide flexible options for users.

“Developing innovative mobility solutions that can help solve issues concerning plaguing our environment is what we’re passionate about, and we’re always thrilled to work closely with customers who share a similar mission,” said Erik Nelson, director of sales for fleet mobility solutions at Sortimo. “Working alongside Phononic to upfit this one-of-a-kind, environmentally friendly all-electric vehicle allows us to be a part of designing the first wave of truly sustainable grocery delivery.”

Flexible shelving options

The Sortimo shelving is either the FR5 or SR5 versions. FR5 shelves fold and have been designed specifically for couriers, express delivery and parcel services. SR5 shelves offer flexibility to design the interior of the vehicle in any configuration that benefits the delivery operation. Combined, the shelving options allow for the transport of chilled, frozen and general merchandise orders in one vehicle.

“The current process of grocery delivery is not sustainable for longevity if retailers want to remain relevant and competitive. Today’s grocery delivery needs demand a new approach that’s sustainable and cost-effective,” said Dana Krug, vice president and general manager at Phononic. “Combine Phononic’s cooling technology, which uses just water mixed with naturally available CO2 and a global warming impact of one, with a high-performing, all-electric vehicle, and you’ve got the strongest approach yet to sustainable last mile delivery. With this design, we’re able to offer one of the most sustainable ways to deliver groceries without significantly impacting the range of the vehicle, which hasn’t been done before.”

The van will be officially unveiled next week at the Home Delivery World show in Philadelphia.

The Ford (NYSE: F) E-Transit offers up to 487.3 cubic feet of cargo space inside the high-roof, extended wheelbase configuration and has a range of approximately 126 miles on a single charge. The Phononic and Sortimo solution is designed for the extended wheelbase version.

Growing online grocery market

A survey of over 1,000 online grocery shoppers released earlier this year found 72% of respondents had purchased groceries online in the past 90 days. While the base for online grocery shoppers is estimated to be 150 million, according to data from Statista, the report from Chicory, the third such survey in the past three years, showed a steady trend upward in online shoppers.

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The first report, issued in January 2020, found just over 50% of people said they have ordered groceries online in the previous 60 days. That jumped to 70.27% in January 2021 during the height of COVID-19 restrictions, but it has remained strong even as in-person shopping has returned.

“Online grocery usership has the potential to grow stronger this year as brands and retailers prioritize digital solutions,” Chicory wrote in its online grocery usership report. “The 2022 online grocery shopper is willing to spend more money, more frequently, which will likely yield higher returns for those investing in digital advertising solutions — as long as those solutions are catering to high-intent shoppers in a context that makes sense.”

Chicory is a digital shopper online marketing platform. It began surveying online grocery shoppers between the ages of 18 and 85 in January 2020. The most recent survey was conducted on Dec. 27, 2021.

Over 52% of survey respondents said they placed an online order at least once a week. Special occasions, though, were not a popular reason for placing an online order, with just 14% saying they went online to order for a special event or holiday.

Statista estimates the online grocery market will reach $135.2 billion this year, up from $112.9 billion in 2021, and grow to $187.7 billion by 2024.

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