Spar has a fleet of 65 electrified vehicles delivering goods through the retailer’s rapid online delivery service, and a combination of grid and solar power charges them.

Blake Raubenheimer, omnichannel executive at Spar Group, told MyBroadband that the retailer spent R6.2 million establishing the Spar2U fleet and plans to expand it further.

Of its 65 electric vehicles, 52 are City Buzz 2 scooters with swappable lithium-ion battery packs that charge to full in three hours. The retailer also has twelve three-wheelers and one City Van servicing Spar2U customers.

Raubenheimer said the company is considering multiple electric vehicle types — from scooters to trucks — to evaluate their viability for use across several services that Spar2U will offer in the future.

Regarding range, Spar’s electric three-wheeled vehicles can travel the furthest at up to 100km on a single charge. The Van and City Buzz 2 scooters get up to 80km on a single charge.

However, the City Buzz 2 scooters offer the fastest charging time at three hours, compared to eight hours for the other vehicles.

Their swappable batteries also offer the benefit of drivers not having to wait for their scooters to charge. Instead, they swap the battery with a fully charged one.

Raubenheimer said the electric vehicles are charged using a 50:50 combination of grid and solar power.

“By adopting a dual charging approach, with 50% solar and 50% Eskom charging, an estimated annual offset of approximately 3.27 tons of carbon emissions per bike will be achieved,” Raubenheimer said.

“Long-term talks are underway with charging infrastructure providers to allow integration into new and upcoming charging networks.”

“These initiatives are driven through electric vehicle suppliers in collaboration with Shell to expand the charging network and availability,” he added.

Raubenheimer said the Spar Group is also considering collaborating with shopping centre management at sites where it has stores to let drivers charge through shopping centres’ green charging network.

“Solar-powered driver shelters are also being considered to allow covered charging for drivers in future,” he added.

“Our goal is to achieve a 50% SPAR2U green fleet by 2025, not only enhancing our nationwide availability but also delivering a greater positive environmental impact.”

Additionally, Raubenheimer said there are initiatives like battery “hot-swap” stations on the way. The “hot-swap” stations will make it convenient for drivers to swap batteries quickly on the move.

The retailer spends R10,960 per day charging its electric delivery fleet, with the cost per vehicle ranging from R160 to R200 for a single charge.

Raubenheimer provided a breakdown of how much it spends charging each vehicle type. This is provided in the table below.

Spar2U electric fleet charging costs
Vehicle Number of vehicles Charging Charging cost (One charge/day) Total cost
City Buzz 2 Scooter 52 Gird and Solar R170 R8,840
Mellowvan 3 Wheeler 10 Gird and Solar R160 R1,600
Zbee Cargo 3 Wheeler 2 Gird and Solar R160 R320
City Van 4 Wheeler 1 Gird and Solar R200 R200
Total R10,960

Spar first announced its plans to launch Spar2U in February 2022, starting with selected Johannesburg stores towards the end of March that same year.

It said the new platform “will enhance the Group’s ability to assist retailers in driving improved consumer service and engagement going forward”.

On 8 June 2022, the company announced its plans to expand the Spar2U service to more stores nationwide. It said it would be up to individual stores to decide how they want to use the platform.

“There is great enthusiasm from our independent retailers to implement Spar’s new online shopping platform, Spar2U,” the company said.

“Our online platform is receiving positive reviews and a large number of stores are preparing to launch online within their communities in the coming months.”

Following the publication of Spar’s annual results for the period ended September 2023, the company told MyBroadband it had expanded the service to 373 stores across all major metros in the country.

It said a further 170 outlets were earmarked for rollout in the following months. It added that its app downloads had increased to over 350,000 during the reporting period, and 20 to 25% of these installations had active users.

Based on that percentage, Spar2U had amassed around 70,000 to 87,500 new users during the year.