It’s been over a year since the first of our Citroën all-electric vans hit the road, delivering copies of Big Issue to vendors across the South West of England. That van, a spacious ë-Berlingo proudly bearing our Driving Change For Good slogan, was just the beginning. We’ve now replaced four of our delivery vehicles in our busiest areas with clean, quiet and efficient Citroën electric vehicles, and there’s plenty more to come. Big Issue Group announced its partnership with Citroën back in August 2022, 15 months and thousands of road miles ago. The intention was to address our carbon footprint and prove that electric vehicles can easily take on the roles traditionally undertaken by diesel and petrol engines.
Big Issue vans cover 350,000 miles a year, delivering more than two million copies of the magazine to our 3,300 vendors in all conditions and all seasons. Our vans manoeuvre through the dense traffic of London, wind around country lanes in Yorkshire, and speed along the coast in Brighton, driven by our dedicated frontline teams. According to MyClimate, that means our diesel vans would generate over 137 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, contributing to climate change, ocean acidification and extreme weather events.
It’s a responsibility we take very seriously. Many of our vendors have experienced rough sleeping, and most sell the magazine on the streets, so they see first-hand the impact of climate change and extreme weather. As Jack Richardson, a vendor in Bristol, puts it: “If you’re wearing three layers of clothes that are all soaked, and you’ve then got to climb into a sleeping bag that’s damp, you’re not going to have a good night.”
In the first year of our three-year partnership, we have replaced four of our vehicles with EVs – in Bristol and the southwest, the South Coast, the Northeast and East Anglia. Between them, they’ve done 52,000 electric miles, generating around 66% less CO₂ than diesel engines. It has also meant we can serve our vendors more efficiently – the generous load space of the ë-Berlingo Van range – up to 4.4m3 in XL length – has plenty of room for magazines. And its rapid charge capability can reach up to 80% battery capacity within 30 minutes at rapid power charge stations.
The vans have had a huge impact on outreach work, as Big Issue South West’s frontline manager Hattie Greenyer explains: “Now we can visit the vendors much more easily – whether that’s to deliver magazines or just take them for a coffee.” It’s at this time of year that the vans really come into their own. Holly O’Connor, our Midlands frontline manager tells us, “Over Christmas, we work all hours, getting magazines out to the vendors and making sure they’re all right on their pitches. We do lots more deliveries so that they can maximise their time on their pitch and sales. We need that flexibility to be there when they need us. I’ve met vendors halfway between our offices and their pitch, so that they can get magazines straight away. Without the vans we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Earlier this year, Hattie, Holly and frontline director Chris Falchi-Stead each featured in short films, made in collaboration with Fight Gravity Films. The films showcase the vans as our team tells us how much EVs have impacted their work. It wasn’t the end of our cinematic ambitions. On a mission to prove that electric vehicles are a clean and efficient choice in any circumstance, we followed journalist Vicky Parrott on a coast-to-coast tour from Southend-on-Sea to Weston-Super-Mare in a Citroën ë-C4 X Electric saloon car, which easily munched the miles between the two seaside towns. And we loaned a Citroën ë-C4 Electric hatchback to our Bath and Bristol frontline manager, Hattie, putting it through its paces as a family car over several weeks of school runs, football practice and a family holiday. The verdict? “It really did become our default everyday car – the Citroën ë-C4 was just so quiet and lovely to drive.” Plus, according to Hattie’s little boy, Syd, “it looks like a Transformer!”