Electric Vehicles at Heathrow


Electric Vehicles at Heathrow





As the Logistics Integrator at Heathrow Airport, Wilson James operates the Colnbrook Logistics Centre (CLC). The CLC provides an off-site location to store and call off construction materials on behalf of contractors, carry out vehicle checks and coordinate traffic management and deliveries for the airport.

Heathrow has committed to significant reductions in emissions across the airport by 2020. In their 'Blueprint for Reducing Emissions' they have highlighted electric vehicles as having a key role in meeting these commitments and have created a new electric vehicle policy for all airside transport.

Wilson James operates a fleet of Ford Transit Connects at Heathrow. These vehicles are used to escort delivery vehicles airside once they have been security checked. The nature of their use means they usually make short trips where they spend a significant amount of time idling, wasting fuel and releasing harmful emissions. In addition, continued idling causes mechanical issues and means time and money has to be spent on repairs.


Wilson James began an investigation into the operation and performance of its current fleet of Ford Transit Connects. The average mileage and time spent active was collected to understand what would be needed of the electric vehicle to meet the demands of the job. As part of the feasibility testing, Wilson James also identified the need for charging points at the CLC, which Heathrow supported and installed.

Once the vehicles were introduced, Wilson James provided specialist training on how to operate and maintain the Nissan Leafs as efficiently as possible. This helped to optimise their performance both economically and environmentally, as well as reducing the chance of mechanical failures.

The Heathrow site is hugely complex and different to any other Wilson James site. One of the biggest challenges faced was the lack of forecast for delivery volumes required by the development and retail projects. This has long been a challenge for the supply chain in the construction industry, and made it very difficult to deploy exactly the right resource at the right time. This had a corresponding impact on predicting an accurate arrival time of our scheduled vehicles that would deliver the material we held in storage.

As part of our programme of continuous improvement, we therefore created a new ‘Scheduled Vehicle Module’ that went live in March 2016. The module was developed specifically to meet the needs of our client and the user base and to mitigate against the lack of a delivery forecast. By working together with Heathrow Development Logistics and the Delivery Integrators and their supply chain we really excelled. We were able to interpret the data, gathered since March 2015 and combine this with our experience of providing an integrated construction logistics solution at Heathrow for over 10 years.


On average each Wilson James escort vehicle travels 790 miles every month and to do so, the Ford Transit Connect would use 131 litres of diesel, costing £153 and emitting 344 kg CO2e. In comparison, to complete the same journeys the Nissan Leaf uses 191kWh, costing just £26.50 and creating only 29 kg CO2e. In addition, electric vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions which plays a vital role in the local air pollution problems.