When electric trucks bring the work gear you need

Reading time: approx. five minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Mewa

MEWA Textil-Service provides an especially sustainable sharing service for workwear and cleaning cloths. The company will bring the first two BAX models to the streets of Berlin in January: the 7.5 ton vehicles with electric drives will make transport emission-free and will provide all kinds of comfort for drivers.

Linen changes in a Berlin mechanics garage: the drivers of MEWA Textil-Service AG & Co stops by every two weeks to bring the team a large sack of freshly washed work trousers and shirts. The textiles all have the vehicle operator’s logo. The MEWA driver hangs the clothes in the garage changing room where there is closet space available where barcodes clearly show which items belongs to each person. The driver takes the sack of used laundry away again, along with the safety container holding used Mewatex cleaning cloths. These are used by customers to wipe up oil, grease and paint and these hazardous materials need to be properly disposed of, even if they have been absorbed by the cloths. This is a task that Mewa undertakes, and sustainably too.

An almost perfect cycle

Because the cloths are not thrown away, but instead are washed and used again. Mewa founder, Hermann Gebauer, developed this multi-use system around 115 years ago, laying the foundations for a long-practised sustainability culture in the company: “It is the DNA of Mewa”, explains Kay Simon, Manager at Mobility Concepts at Mewa. From wastewater treatment to reusable packaging and sustainably powered delivery vehicles, the company has been exploring the potential for maximum resource conservation. With his sharing concept, it reaches, among others, industrial companies, printers, handicraft businesses, supermarkets, food retailers, bakeries, pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries, care services and emergency services, as well as service companies that rent business clothing such as dress shirts and suits.

The textiles are cleaned again in in-house laundries. “At the end of the washing processes, the water goes to our wastewater treatment plants, where we can filter out 99.8 percent of the pollutants. So we also treat our wastewater ourselves,” says Simon. “The washed-out oils and greases are converted back into new energy in our combined heat and power plants. This means we can cover up to 80% of the energy required for our dryers and car washes” An almost perfect cycle. And a conscious decision is made to ensure that the textiles themselves are also produced sustainably: the cleaning cloths, designed to be reused, are made in Germany from high-quality cotton. And in the area of workwear, among other things, Mewa launched “PEAK” in 2021, a collection whose fabric is largely made from recycled PET bottles and is particularly elastic, breathable and thermo-regulating.

The next building block: BAX

An important new building block for the sustainability of the entire company will be BAX, which BPW has developed together with Paul Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH: Mewa is using the first two models of these electrically powered 7.5-ton trucks on the road. During IAA Transportation in Hanover, the vehicles will be handed over and Mewa will use them in Berlin. “From our location behind the capital’s Berlin Brandenburg airport we make daily tours of around 150 kilometres,” says Kay Simon. “With their range of a good 200 kilometres, the BAX models fit our requirements here perfectly. With BAX, drivers don’t have to worry about whether they will make it back to our location in the evening – even if a traffic jam or closure causes major diversions.” Further locations are also planned and soon, BAX will be in use for Mewa in five metropolises.

»With BAX we have found an electrically powered vehicle that suits us really well and, at this point in time, represents a benchmark for us that no other manufacturer can match.«

Kay Simon, Manager Mobility Concepts, MEWA Textil-Service AG & Co.

The transport and collection of textiles to and from customers are very important parts of Mewa’s service and they play a major role in determining how sustainable the overall package is. The company operates 700 commercial vehicles. “For us, the big challenge is that we will need to transform this fleet in the near future, even though we can’t replace everything immediately,” says Simon. “We will have to decide, piece by piece, which alternative drives make sense for us while also looking at what is available on the market. With BAX we have found an electrically powered vehicle that suits us really well and, at this point in time, represents a benchmark for us that no other manufacturer can match.” The three-ton usable load and the 200-kilometre range of the BAX were the decisive factors for him: “That’s exactly what we need and what we haven’t found with any other manufacturer.”

Quiet, free of vibrations – and no more emissions

He also considers the advantages the BAX offers the drivers. “An electric truck has a much more comfortable drive: it doesn’t generate vibrations, it drives really quietly and drivers are not exposed to any exhaust fumes. The feedback from our team is that it is a really pleasant drive.” Mewa has already deployed several eVitos, the electric transporters from Mercedes-Benz. “We have already learned a lot with these vehicles,” says Kay Simon. “With BAX, we want to further expand this learning and collect data which we can then use to make other decisions, for example, about which technology is best suited for specific areas of application.” For the superstructures that Mewa has chosen for BAX, the company also uses recycled materials consisting of lightweight components – this can save additional energy and therefore also costs.

For Kay Simon, the drive train of the future is CO2-neutral – regardless of the technology. “We are open to all concepts, but we deliberately don’t use bridging technologies such as CNG, LNG or hybrid vehicles because we really want to use purely CO2-neutral technologies. This also means that the electric vehicles in the fleet are only charged with electricity generated from renewable sources. At the moment, however, Simon sees battery-electric vehicles predominantly in urban areas. For heavy transporting over long distances, Mewa relies on hydrogen-powered vehicles from Hyundai.

»We want to be below the TCO costs of trucks as soon as possible, and I think that’s pretty realistic.«

Kay Simon, Manager Mobility Concepts, Mewa Textil-Service AG & Co.

No “fig leaf” project

Simon does not lose sight of the economic efficiency factor in all of this: “Running a company sustainably also means that it must be economically successful in the long term. It is clear that we now have to invest in new, sustainable vehicles and it’s important for us to have the break-even point in sight. We want to be below the TCO costs of classic diesel trucks as soon as possible and I think that’s quite realistic.” That’s why the use of BAX and other vehicles with alternative drives is anything but a “fig leaf project” or “marketing stunt” for him, but is rather seen as a starting signal into the future. “We have deliberately chosen vehicles and technologies with great potential and will test them in our everyday lives then analyse how they perform and draw the appropriate conclusions.”

In big cities, the pressure on service providers like Mewa is growing due to diesel driving bans, the lack of parking spaces, and congested roads. Among other things, the company is responding with a new distribution concept and is using space in multi-storey car parks to install hubs there. These already exist in Hamburg and Berlin. In underground garages, cargo bikes pick up deliveries and bring them to customers in a CO2-neutral way as well. “However, we can’t deal with the soiled cleaning cloths, which we have to declare as hazardous goods, in this way,” says Simon. “That’s where BAX helps us – it makes it through the city centre easily with its compact size.” Mewa even wants to take it to Paris: in the course of the Olympic Games there will be a general ban on diesel vehicles entering the city from January 2024. “We hope that we will be able to use BAX in the French capital in the future.”

Ergonomic loading and unloading

In order to take a load off the drivers, Kay Simon also looks at the vehicles from the point of view of ergonomics: “The low cab on the BAX scores points in this respect because you can get in and out of it very easily and in a way that’s easy on the joints. In addition to the tail lift, one of the first two vehicles ordered also has a side door positioned on the passenger side away from the traffic, i.e. facing the pavement. It will be even easier to remove and load the laundry bags in this way. “We want the drivers to have as little stress as possible and we want to relieve them of physical strain. Because they should also have a sustainable job and they should like working for us.”

MEWA Textil-Service

Mewa belongs to the largest textile service company in Europe. With 46 locations in 14 countries, it services over 190,000 customers. Around 1.1 million people wear work clothing from Mewa at their job. The company also washes around one billion cleaning cloths every year. The service provider offers textile sharing with an all-round service: instead of buying workwear and being responsible for its care, companies can rent it from Mewa – including cleaning, care and maintenance and, if desired, with their own branding.

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