In August last year, Royal Mail began trialling a new type of electric vehicle, built by technology firm Arrival, in London.

The 6-tonne van, the first of nine the postal operator will be putting through their paces in the capital, operates out of Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant depot.

At the Microlise Transport Conference in May, Royal Mail’s head of fleet technical and compliance Grahame Bennett will update delegates on one of the industry’s most exciting vehicle trials.

“I’m going to be talking about the trial so far at the conference,” Bennett told MT. “We’ve got one of the vehicles on the road and will hopefully have the second out by May 16. So far, we’ve had a couple of little experiences we’ve learnt from, and driver feedback has been extremely positive.”

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The Microlise Transport Conference will take place on 16 May at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Bennett said that Arrival approached Royal Mail around two years ago to pitch a trial of its electric vehicle, and that the operator was drawn by a prototype it had built.

“Arrival said payload wouldn’t be an issue because the battery size and weight is flexible, and that was a big factor for us,” he said.

Bennett added that it’s worth taking the time to listen to Royal Mail’s journey because “there’s a lack of opportunity out there”.

Royal Mail, Bennett disclosed, had discussed a trial of a converted electric vehicle with a lead manufacturer, but said that Royal Mail would have ended up paying half the vehicle’s value over two years only for the manufacturer to take it away again afterwards.

“With Arrival they’re getting real time data and we get vehicles to run for a period of time around London. So which one would you have chosen?

“It’s an attractive opportunity from Arrival, but it’s one where I’ve had to learn to be patient.”

That patience, he said, comes from the fact Arrival is still setting up its production line, and that he hasn’t been able to get the vehicles on the road as quickly as he’d have liked.

“But,” he said, “while two years seems like a long time and it can be slightly frustrating wanting to get a vehicle out on the road, it’s a short amount of time compared to how things have developed in the past. And the next 10 years in terms of vehicle technology and vehicle change is going to be huge.

“Our trial with Arrival is a part of this journey, and our drivers are chomping at the bit for more.”