If you’ve ordered groceries from Town & Country, you’ve probably seen PacWesty vans driving around Bainbridge Island the past two years.
But what you might not know is that the vans are clean, green, electric machines.
“Since the day we hit the gas on home delivery, PacWesty’s been committed to reliable customer service, environmentally sustainable travel and a deep love for Puget Sound. We’re bringing you the food you love, and supporting this cool local business at the same time,” T&C’s website says.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, PacWesty was focused on renting Westfalia vans for adventure enthusiasts eager to try Northwest experiences like cycling, fishing, kayaking, hiking and whale watching on the Olympic Peninsula with their simple-to-use campers. But, when the coronavirus kept people at home, PacWesty started delivering groceries to keep their staff employed. In March, the company delivered approximately 1,200 orders and more than 4,000 bags of groceries.
In two years, PacWesty has delivered more than 150,000 bags of groceries, logged 50,000 miles, an equivalent of driving around the world twice, and offset about 50,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.
Logistics manager Hunter Elliott said they had no idea how much that business would grow. “It was a way to keep the team busy during lockdown. We just started out on Bainbridge with one van, taking orders over the phone with a clipboard, and now it’s evolved into more of an elaborate business.”
PacWesty has expanded its delivery service with T&C and is shuttling groceries to the front door of residents all over Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Ballard and Shoreline with their electric vans. PacWesty operates two vans, seven days a week, with one driver dropping off orders locally and the other delivering on the other side of Puget Sound.
Elliott said PacWesty has been using the electric vans since the beginning of the pandemic, and he has personally delivered groceries onto doorsteps. “People were grateful and glad that the service exists. A lot of our customers are regulars and relied on the service quite a bit during the pandemic.”
PacWesty keeps its small fleet of five converted vans running with their own vehicle repair shop mechanics, and if you checked under the hood, you’d discover a Tesla model 3 motor and components. The conversion process for one van with a range of 150 miles costs about $70,000.
“It depends quite a lot on the price of the salvage components because those prices fluctuate a lot. It’s pretty crazy what the junkyard will sell components for,” Elliott said, adding they sometimes get a deal on the motors and vans, but prices skyrocketed during the pandemic because the demand for delivery vans increased. “You couldn’t find them anywhere because all these companies needed to expand their delivery.”
The vans with reclaimed Tesla motors get lower mileage because of their old design. “When you put them in a large, heavier vehicle that’s basically shaped like a brick, you lose a lot of efficiency,” Elliott said, adding PacWesty is looking for ways to offer all electricall-electriclogistics services to other business segments.
The PacWesty vehicles are on the move everyday filled with baked goods, locally sourced produce and organic meats, pre-made meals and many more earth-friendly foods. Elliott remembers one unique delivery on Bainbridge.
“We delivered twenty pumpkins to one house during COVID because they wanted their kids to have a pumpkin patch, and they didn’t want to risk exposure,” Elliott said.