Location: Raleigh, NC
Fleet Type: Electric Delivery Vehicles

 

Narrative

Walker Auto and Truck is a family-run auto parts company with 50 years of experience, and the third generation of the family has joined the business. The company has more than 70 retail stores and three distribution centers with coverage area from central North Carolina to the Atlantic coast. It became a NAPA Auto Parts affiliate 15 years ago, and the company is in the top three national independent NAPA retailers. Originally, the company focused on wholesale parts distribution to dealerships and repair centers.  Even with 70 retail stores open to the public, more than 75% of revenue is still from relationships from wholesale distribution and automotive dealerships.

Walker now has 70 stores and 650 employees. As a parts distributor, the company focuses on fast, convenient delivery of parts, which enables customers to have lower overhead costs by reducing inventory. Walker has approximately 500 branded fleet vehicles, including a NAPA hat on top of the vehicles. Average delivery to a customer is approximately 45 minutes and 30 miles roundtrip for a fleet vehicle, regardless of whether it is an electric or internal combustion engine.

Walker does not perform maintenance on its vehicles in-house. It outsources maintenance and awards vehicle service for EVs to dealerships and repair shops that are Walker Auto and Truck customers.

As an auto parts distributor looking to the future, Walker expects more demand from the public and service departments for EV maintenance and parts as vehicles exceed the life of their warranties and as tax incentives extend to previously-owned EVs.

Outputs & Outcomes

Outputs:

NC Clean Energy Technology Center held minimal meetings with Walker Auto and Truck, providing information on navigating funding opportunities. Walker Auto and Truck submitted a grant application to secure funding to introduce an electric vehicle to the company fleet, and the positive outcomes have been plentiful. In 2021, Walker added a fully electric Chevy Bolt. Walker has Level 2 chargers for overnight charging and added public charging to a Wilmington, NC store. Owner Nat Walker says, “The offset in fuel costs we experienced is astounding. Our goal is to migrate over to an electric and hybrid fleet.” Walker is now piloting a pick-up truck in the fleet by adding the hybrid Ford Maverick.

The company vehicles typically have the same driver assigned to them, and drivers have minimal training. Still, anyone driving the vehicle must receive a basic overview to familiarize themselves with its features, monitoring battery range so it stays above 20%, and charging procedures. Only once has the company had a problem with battery charge, and it was when a substitute driver drove the vehicle until it fully depleted the battery.

Outcomes:

The company ran a two-year pilot with the Chevy Bolt, monitoring its performance and metrics. During October 2023, the Chevy Bolt drove an average of 280 miles per week, and that month, it offset gasoline costs by $225 compared to the fuel-efficient Chevy Sonic. Walker is transitioning from business-as-usual for fleet replacements of internal combustion engines and considering plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles as replacements as fleet vehicles are replaced or added.

Walker Auto and Truck is a private company that has become an active participant in the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s educational programming for other fleet owners. Walker has publicly promoted the success of adding EVs to the company fleet. Nat Walker or other staff brought one of the Chevy Bolts and donated their time to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s electric vehicle displays and demonstration days as a success story of adding EVs to a business fleet and answering questions. Additionally, Walker signed on as a stakeholder for the development of a new Clean Fuels Coalition proposed for some unserved regions in North Carolina.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

For other organizations that are considering adding EVs to their fleet, owner Nat Walker suggests, “Don’t be afraid or panic.” Investigate options and test to determine the best plan for a company to begin migration to a new technology. Engage with and educate customers and clients to discuss emerging markets to prepare them for change in their work as EVs continue to increase in market share, and constantly look for incentive funding at all levels of government and from other organizations for opportunities to offset existing business costs or expand business strategies whether it is for charging infrastructure or vehicle purchases.

Additionally, the company has expanded beyond auto parts to piloting consulting services on charging station installations for single and multi-family residential through a new venture, EV Walker Charging Solutions.

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Walker Auto Parts Fleet Story

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