Meals on Wheels People Introduces Electric-Solar Van


Meals on Wheels People has introduced a new vehicle into its fleet: an all-electric van with a refrigeration unit powered by solar energy to keep meals fresh for delivery. The van was funded by a grant from the Portland General Electric (PGE) Drive Change Fund and was built by Lightning eMotors.

The Lightning electric van is a zero-emission electric vehicle built on the Ford Transit chassis. The refrigeration unit is powered by a 12-volt battery pack that is charged by the vehicle when the van is plugged in and by a solar panel when the vehicle is in the sun. The van will be used for the Meals 4 Kids, which serves qualified children and families within the City of Portland experiencing food insecurity and is funded by the Portland Children’s Levy.

The PGE Drive Change Fund is funded via the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Clean Fuels Program and is awarded annually through a competitive grant process. Meals on Wheels People received the grant in 2020. The PGE Drive Change Fund allowed Meals on Wheels People to purchase two electric vehicles and install electric vehicle charging stations at its headquarters in Multnomah Village, allowing staff, volunteers and the public to charge their vehicles while on location.

To build the Class 3 vehicle, Lightning eMotors partnered with Canadian refrigeration manufacturer Volta Air and California-based solar panel supplier Merlin Solar. Emerald Transportation Solutions of Georgia installed the refrigeration unit, its battery pack and insulation liner.

“Sustainability is part of our corporate culture and Meals on Wheels People is committed to reducing its impact on the environment,” states Meals on Wheels People CEO Suzanne Washington. “Converting to electric vehicles is just one step in our Green Initiative and helped us earn a spot on the list of 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon. We are extremely grateful to PGE for providing us the funding for our new electric vehicles and charging stations.”

“We’re thrilled to support the Meals on Wheels People mission,” says Eva DeCesaro, manager of PGE’s Clean Fuels Program. “This electric van and charging infrastructure will contribute to the reduction of emissions not just for the wonderful people at Meals on Wheels, but for everyone they serve, and the larger community here in Oregon.”

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