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5 ways EVs can transform mobile retail

From battery-powered ice cream vans to mobile dressing rooms, zero-emission mobility can help entrepreneurs create more sustainable businesses

Whether it’s pepperoni pizza or a grand piano, almost anything can be delivered to your door these days. Yet home delivery isn’t the only example of mobile retail’s growing popularity. All around the globe, mobile clothing shops, food trucks and farmers markets are popping up.

The idea isn’t new – you may fondly recall running after the ice cream truck as a child. But today, the business model is being transformed by entrepreneurs who are taking a more sustainable approach to serving both rural and urban communities. Here are five examples of how electric vehicles (EVs) can change mobile retail:


1. Sky to Scoop: Tasty treats with zero emissions

Mackie’s of Scotland, a family-owned ice cream maker, powers its farm using renewable energy including wind and solar power. But until recently, getting frozen treats to customers required using fossil fuels. Most ice cream trucks have diesel engines that power both the vehicle itself and the refrigeration equipment. When the truck pulls up in your neighborhood, the diesel engine idles the whole time to run the equipment. That means producing tailpipe emissions along with the soft-serve.

Mackie’s saw an opportunity. The company partnered with Nissan, which has been in the electric van business since 2011, to create an all-electric ice cream truck in the UK. The project took a "Sky to Scoop" approach to make every stage of the ice cream journey carbon-neutral.

The innovative new ice cream truck consists of a prototype van based on the 100% electric Nissan e-NV200. It combines a zero-emission drivetrain, second-life battery storage and renewable solar energy to sell tasty treats with no emissions.


2. A mobile grocery store

The ability to reach rural or isolated areas with power on hand inspired Nissan to test an electric vehicle-based mobile grocery store. Battery-powered freezers, refrigerators and a heating cabinet were used to serve customers in secluded Oku-Aizu in northeast Japan. Local grocers who participated in the program said customers responded positively – and, like in the UK, they particularly enjoyed the ice cream.


3. A dressing room on wheels

Tourists flock to the Japanese district of Aizu for its historic sites, scenic views and hand-crafted pottery. Residents, however, don’t have a lot of options when it comes to modern fashion. Nissan teamed up with the Rakuten Institute of Technology and the University of Aizu to create a mobile clothing store. The store came complete with an air-conditioned dressing room for trying on clothes, powered by a large-capacity EV battery. Shoppers received fashion advice from stylists remotely via a display.


4. A pop-up restaurant with a view

Zero-emission vehicles can open up new places to do business that might otherwise be off-limits – like cherished natural areas. In collaboration with local partners, Nissan provided an EV to its local partners for a pop-up restaurant in Chubu-Sangaku National Park, known for its mountains and pristine waters. Using an electric van, the pop-up shuttled diners to the remote dining location and then used the electric motor to power the kitchen and lighting for the meal. Afterward, diners left nothing behind to spoil the area, including tailpipe emissions.


5. The Ultimate Smart Barbecue

Conquering the great outdoors in cutting-edge recreational vehicles is rising in popularity, with millennials fueling the boom. A few years ago, Nissan launched a crowdfunded project in Japan to show hobbyists that they can take modern conveniences into the wild without spoiling it. We converted an electric van into the “Ultimate Smart Barbecue” to cook without carbon emissions. The van also kept users comfortable with electric mosquito repellant and powered a karaoke machine for entertainment. Developed in cooperation with the Japan Barbecue Association, the concept is envisioned as an on-demand mobile service for private customers.

At Nissan, we’re constantly exploring the ways electric vehicles can enrich our lives beyond transporting people from point A to point B. Our EVs already on the road have more than 10 gigawatt-hours of combined energy storage potential. By tapping into this reservoir in innovative ways, we’re opening up new possibilities for moving people to a better world.

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