Seven of Waitrose’s fleet of Vauxhall Vivaro-e vans are to take part in a trial of cutting edge charging technology as part of wider plans to boost the supermarket’s electric van delivery service.

The seven Vivaro-e vans, which will deliver groceries from Waitrose’s St Katherine’s Dock store, will be fitted with a wireless slim charging pad on the base of each vehicle.

The pad will allow them to top up by parking above an electric plate back at the store, using a technology based on the same idea as flat charging plates for mobile phones. The vans can also be plugged in to charge overnight.

The technology will be installed by EV technology specialists Flexible Power Systems, which will also equip the store with a cloud based smart charging system designed for home delivery.

Waitrose also has plans to roll out the trial to other stores in the near future.

The trial will build on a deployment of the technology with City of Edinburgh Council and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, funded by the UK government’s Office for Low-Emission Vehicles through its innovation agency Innovate UK.

Marija Rompani, John Lewis partnership director of ethics and sustainability, said: “Before the pandemic, we were taking 60,000 orders a week - we’re now doing well over 200,000 orders.

“That uplift in demand for grocery deliveries means that prioritising an electric fleet is more important than ever, particularly as world leaders meet at COP26 to discuss how we lower global emissions.

“We’ve already committed to electric vans and have created a new biomethane gas filling station too, which is helping to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%.

“We continue to look for new innovative ways to cut our emissions even further, as well as bring in the latest technology.

“Being the first to trial this new wireless charging technology is both exciting and another example of our ambition to show leadership in this space.”

Michael Ayres, MD of Flexible Power Systems, said: “Companies like Waitrose have to electrify their fleets to combat climate change. At the same time, they have to fulfil customers’ needs as efficiently as possible, and the growth in home delivery seen during the pandemic is here to stay.

“This project is about testing technologies that can save time and cost, particularly wireless charging, which has the potential to save time spent charging between deliveries to make the process more efficient and convenient for customers, as well as retailers.”

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “I am thrilled to see Waitrose leading the way by making the important switch to electric vans, offering green deliveries to thousands of customers, as we accelerate towards a net zero future.

“This government has committed £2.5bn towards electric vehicle grants and infrastructure and I am delighted to hear that Flexible Power Systems have been able to develop this cutting edge wireless charging technology with the help of DfT funding.”

Waitrose and FPS have been working together for two years on large scale simulations of EV fleet implementations to understand the impact of different vehicle choices and charger configurations.

Ayres said: “That work has revealed that one-size doesn’t fit all in fleet electrification projects and that a range of operational, site and vehicle requirements need to be balanced to arrive at effective strategies.

“Software tools developed during that programme form the basis of the system being implemented at St Katherine’s Dock over the coming months. It differs from conventional smart charging systems in that it is integrated into building energy monitoring and operational software systems.”