Geazone Eco-Couriers of Victoria, B.C., has ordered 40 Toyota Mirais to launch what it says is North America’s first courier fleet using hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEV).
The company, which operates on Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver and touts sustainability as one of its principles, has been using battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). CEO Andrew Mitchell said the Mirais will supplement its existing fleet of 20 BEVs.
This is the second deal Toyota has struck to supply FCEVs to a B.C. fleet after an agreement earlier this year for 40 Mirais with ride-hailing operator Lyft to use in the Vancouver area.
Stephen Beatty, Toyota Canada corporate president, said FCEVs are a perfect solution for fleets of high-use vehicles, offering zero-emission operation with fast refueling.
“It can refuel in about five minutes, which we think is critical because it means low down time for drivers and a more practical zero-emission alternative for fleets,” Beatty told a virtual news conference on Monday.
“In the aftermath of COP26 it demonstrates it’s possible to take meaningful action today to reduce carbon emissions, and that how and where you focus your efforts is going to be really important in the coming years.”
Mitchell, a champion professional mountain-bike racer, founded Geazone in 2012 as a bicycle-courier business after injuries forced him to retire from the sport. The COVID-19 pandemic saw business-to-business deliveries shrink, forcing a pivot to home delivery, he said. Demand has mushroomed and so has the need for speed, noting . recharging a BEV takes an average 90 minutes.
“One of the things we were looking at to make that happen was the use of hydrogen,” said Mitchell. “We’re really excited about the technology. The timing was just right for us.”
The company, whose fleet now includes electric-assist cargo tricycles, cars and, coming in 2022, electric trucks, provides sustainable delivery services, third-party logistics and freight services to businesses across Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver.
Mitchell placed Geozone’s order after test-driving a Mirai. The first nine were delivered in early September and Geazone now has 20 in all, joining the fleet after being modified with cargo bulkheads to protect the driver. Mitchell said he expects to have all 40 in service by early next year, acquired through a combination of leasing and direct purchase.
Colin Armstrong, chairman of Hydrogen BC, which promotes the adoption of FCEVs and hydrogen fueling stations, welcomed the move by Geazone. Expanding the FCEV fleet stimulates demand for more infrastructure, said Armstrong, who’s also CEO of HTEC, which builds refueling stations.
All the players at Monday’s announcement lauded the province’s hydrogen strategy, part of its CleanBC program. Geazone is receiving rebates under the Go Electric Hydrogen Fleet program, which offers fleet operators $8,000 to a maximum of 35 per cent of the purchase price of an FCEV.
Bruce Ralston, minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, said B.C. created the first cluster hydrogen-refueling stations in Canada, four so far.
“We will continue to add to this with $10 million announced last year to build an additional 10 hydrogen fueling stations across British Columbia and to promote and accelerate the use of hydrogen technologies,” he said.