Meals on Wheels People in Portland, Oregon recently begain using an all-electric van with a solar-powered refrigeration unit, according to an Aug. 9 press release.
The van, built by Lightning eMotors of Loveland, Col., is believed to be the first electric van deployed in the U.S. with a fully functioning solar-powered refrigeration system, used to keep meals fresh for delivery. The refrigeration unit is powered by a 12-volt battery pack charged by the vehicle when the van is plugged in and by a solar panel when the it sits in the sun.
The Lightning Electric Transit Van is a zero-emission vehicle that will be used for the Meals 4 Kids, which serves qualified children and families within Portland experiencing food insecurity. Meals 4 Kids and is funded by the Portland Children’s Levy.
The Meals on Wheels People fleet van is supported by a grant from the Portland General Electric (PGE) Drive Change Fund, which draws its funds via the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Clean Fuels Program. Through an annual competitive grant process, Meals on Wheels People received the grant in 2020. The PGE Drive Change Fund enabled Meals on Wheels People to purchase two electric vehicles and install EV charging stations at its headquarters in Multnomah Village, allowing staff, volunteers and the public to charge their vehicles while on location.
"Sustainability is part of our corporate culture and Meals on Wheels People is committed to reducing its impact on the environment,” said Meals on Wheels People CEO Suzanne Washington, in the news release. “Converting to electric vehicles is just one step in our green initiative and helped us earn a spot on the list of 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon. We are extremely grateful to PGE for providing us the funding for our new electric vehicles and charging stations.”
Eva DeCesaro, manager of PGE’s Clean Fuels Program, added, “This electric van and charging infrastructure will contribute to the reduction of emissions not just for the wonderful people at Meals on Wheels, but for everyone they serve, and the larger community here in Oregon.”
To build the Class 3 vehicle, Lightning eMotors partnered with refrigeration manufacturer Volta Air, based in Canada, and solar-panel supplier Merlin Solar of San Jose, Calif. The van is capable of traveling delivery routes while maintaining cargo at refrigerator temperatures – all with zero emissions. Emerald Transportation Solutions of Fayetteville, Georgia installed the refrigeration unit, its battery pack and insulation liner.
“Last-mile delivery of chilled food via electric vehicles is expected to be an emerging trend as more zero-emission vehicles are deployed,” said Bill Kelley, chief technical officer, Lightning eMotors. “Our engineering team worked very closely with Volta Air to assure seamless integration of this innovative battery charging and refrigeration functionality. It’s a pleasure to be able to deliver this innovative van to Meals on Wheels People.”