Following £16.5 million investment and two years of research and development, Coventry-based Penso has launched a new range of ultra-lightweight bodies for 3.5-tonne commercial vehicles which have been specially designed to tackle all issues facing ecommerce deliveries and last mile logistics fleets, namely: reducing carbon footprint, driver shortage, tighter legislation, imminent technology advances in alternative fuels and, today more than ever before, increasing customer demand. Interestingly, the use of carbon-fibre and recycled materials has not been seen before in a mass production programme such as this.
Penso, a well-established British engineering firm that works with some of the biggest brands in the aerospace and automotive sectors, including on projects with Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover, and even on the construction of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, has brought its advanced experience to commercial vehicle bodybuilding in a move that could transform the home delivery sector.
The firm’s new ‘Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods’ offer temperature-controlled and dry freight fleets the ability to increase payload by up to 50%, and cubic capacity by as much as 30%. In essence, a 3.5-tonne vehicle with a Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pod can carry the same weight of goods in two journeys, that a traditional vehicle delivers in three. This significant increase, combined with a sleek aerodynamic design, improved functionality for drivers, the use of both carbon fibre and recycled plastic, compatibility with diesel, electric and hybrid chassis plus a 10-year structural warranty, provides Penso to enter the now increasingly competitive home delivery marketplace with great efficiency.
The panels for Penso’s carbon fibre pods are press formed and take just minutes to construct, making the end product a commercially viable alternative for home delivery fleets for the first time. Typically, carbon fibre panels have taken hours to manufacture in an autoclave, pricing the solution out of the fleet sector.
A large proportion of the overall investment has been in developing a flexible automated robot assembly line housed in a brand new 50,000 ft2 facility in Coventry which can produce a finished body every 42 minutes. Production is ramping up this month and next with two initial models – an e-Grocery Pod as an upgrade for supermarket deliveries and an e-Delivery Pod, based on a Luton van. Ultimately, 30 different LCV body variants will be built across different wheelbases and vehicle platforms to suit a variety of applications and fleets including a ultra-efficient walk-thru version for the express parcel delivery sector.
Speaking to trade journalists on a special webcast launch, Daniel Hurcombe, Manging Director of Penso said: “We have taken an entirely fresh approach in what is typically a very traditional sector, using new materials and processes to unlock major efficiency and sustainability improvements for last mile delivery. Crucially, we can offer customers a clear road map to net zero emissions and dramatic improvements in total cost of ownership. Our new facility is designed to build up to 10,000 vehicle bodies per annum, and the plan is to ramp up production steadily over the next five years to fill that capacity. We’ve started volume production this month, following extensive prototype testing, and we already have an order book with household-name fleets for several hundred vehicles to be built this year. We are confident of significant further interest from supermarkets, parcel delivery firms and logistics fleets as doorstep demand continues to surge.”
Penso is launching its new Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods with two body types initially, with the name reflecting the 5,000 recycled plastic bottles used to manufacture each pod, thereby helping to the reduce the volume of plastic waste ending up in the sea. Both pods have been configured for a 3.5-tonne medium wheelbase, front-wheel-drive, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis-cab. Penso’s bodywork is fully compatible with diesel, electric and hybrid models – ensuring the design is future-proofed and can be easily transferred onto next-generation vehicles.
The Blue Ocean e-Grocery Pod is the first Blue Ocean model features a triple compartment temperature-controlled pod for grocery home deliveries, offering the ability to carry 140 totes versus the industry standard of 110 to 120.
Penso can adapt bodywork configurations for different customers, with the launch vehicle holding 72 ambient totes, 45 chilled totes and 23 frozen totes. Its research and development teams used complex fluid dynamic analysis to ensure rapid air flow around the freezer section, guaranteeing air temperature returns quickly to the set point after door openings. High pressure at the front of the freezer block also forces cold air between the totes to penetrate the stored goods. This model also boosts payload capacity by 47% to an impressive 1,250kg versus an average of 850kg for a traditional 3.5-tonner in this sector.
The Blue Ocean e-Delivery Pod model will enter production in July 2020 and is an ultra-lightweight Luton bodied van, offering 19m3 of load space and an interior height clearance of 2.4m – perfect for dry freight parcel delivery or the two-person delivery of bulk goods. Based on the same Sprinter chassis, this model provides a payload capacity of 1,500kg, dependant on the customer’s final specification. Traditional bodies typically give a payload of 900–1,000kg in a similar application, resulting in substantial efficiency gains for operators specifying a Penso-built pod.
In side-by-side comparisons, an unladen Penso-bodied vehicle is around 400kg lighter than most competitor models.
Its lighter weight, combined with its aerodynamic design, contributes towards a reduction in CO2 and NOx emissions, with around 30% less diesel usage. When mounted to a fully-electric LCV chassis, these emissions savings increase to 100%; plus the lightweight body structure and aerodynamics will help to greatly increase battery range. Penso recorded a drag co-efficient of just 0.44 for its e-Grocery Pod, measured against 0.89 for a standard home delivery vehicle currently operated by one of the major supermarket fleets.
The structural core of Penso’s panels has been certificated by Cambridge Refrigeration Technology as meeting the insulation requirements for carrying chilled and frozen produce. Its long-term durability is key to enabling a structural warranty of 10-years on each pod, plus a three-year / 150,000-mile warranty on moving parts and components.
At the end of each pod’s life, more than 95% of the structure can be recycled, including the carbon fibre, aluminium and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Penso also points to the ease of repair and significant increase in available payload capacity which will more than offset the higher initial capital outlay. And that’s before fleets take account of the benefits of reduced fuel consumption, payload increases and lower stem mileages.
Established in 2000, Penso is a world-leading engineering and manufacturing specialist based in Coventry, providing complete turnkey services to customers across the globe. The business has heavily invested in developing new and lightweight solutions for the automotive, aerospace, defence and rail sectors.