Manufacturers distributors and retailers are under major government pressure to reduce emissions from their logistics and road transport operations, whatever their fleet size. Added pressure is coming from end consumers who expect their retailers to do the right thing to improve air quality and reduce noise. Commercial electric delivery vehicles (EVs) are providing a viable alternative to conventional vehicles that use fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel that pollute the environment.
What is happening with electric vehicles?
The biggest retailers in the UK and their logistics partners are speeding up the transformation away from conventional fuels. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and DPD are leading the move to electrified fleets. Last-mile logistics has been one of the greatest contributors to carbon emissions, partly due to the expansion of e-commerce and this must be addressed. But it’s not all about delivery vans and e-bikes. There is a major move in the development and roll-out of electric heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) both for transporting general consumer goods as well as refrigerated products. As the technology has progressed and batteries with greater capacity can offer longer driving ranges, there is increased interest in electric mid-sized vans which has been a challenge for deliveries longer than 200-miles.
Heavy goods vehicles make up around 16 per cent of the UK’s domestic transport emissions and leading operators are committed to aggressive reduction plans. Tesco has launched the UK’s first commercially used fully electric HGV articulated (tractor-trailer as opposed to rigid) trucks in Wales using 37 tonne DAF electric vehicles. Amazon is using five similar electric HGVs in its delivery fleet at its fulfilment centres in Tilbury and Milton Keynes, transporting customer packages with zero emissions using battery power. Amazon has a goal to deliver 50% of shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030. Tesco is leading the way in cold chain solutions by also rolling out solar panels to power the units on some of its refrigerated HGV fleet.
Last-mile and micro-deliveries
The introduction of cargo bikes in urban centres is one way the leaders: Amazon, FedEx, UPS and DPD are making an impact on carbon emissions. Cargo bikes can take shorter, faster routes in restricted areas. These e-bikes are highly visible in many cities and towns including Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cambridge. DPD is using Paxster micro e-vans, developed in Norway, that can travel at a maximum of 37 mph and have a range of 87 miles. This Cargo bike can be recharged using a normal 13amp 240v plug socket. It can carry a payload of 150 kg and is agile in traffic. DPD will be delivering all-electric in 30 towns and cities in the UK by 2023. FedEx is using zero-emission Mercedes-Benz e-Sprinters. According to the German manufacturer, by the end of the decade, the company will be ready to become fully electric “wherever market conditions permit.”
The consumer factor
Consumer pressure for “green” deliveries is growing. Buyers want to know that they are contributing to a cleaner environment and are open to paying extra for it or will wait longer. They are worried about the effects of e-commerce delivery on air quality and congestion. Ocado offers greener delivery slots if the buyer clicks on the green van logo at order time. The consumer delivery company Evri (formerly Hermes UK) operates with 100% electric vehicles to service final-mile Parcel Shop deliveries in central London. The 32-van fleet delivers an average of 6,500 parcels per day, rising to 11,000 during peak.
What about the costs?
EVs are still more expensive than their petrol or diesel equivalents to purchase or lease but the gap is narrowing. Also, although the electricity needed to power an EV has been rising sharply recently it is still cheaper than petrol or diesel fuel per mile.
According to ePowertrucks, in September 2021 the fuel costs for travelling just 3 miles were:
- £0.145 for a typical light electric last-mile delivery vehicle (one KWh)
- £0.29 for a diesel Ford Transit Connect Light Commercial vehicle
- £0.38 for a petrol Fiat Doblo Light Commercial vehicle
The UK government recently announced that the discount available on most electric vans through the Plug-in Van Grant (PIVG) incentive scheme has been extended by two years. It has also been confirmed that recent reductions to the grant remain unchanged in a move to encourage more users to adopt electric commercial vehicles in the lead-up to the end of sales of all diesel and petrol-powered vans in 2030.
Although the cost of replacing batteries is high, their usable life is long. The average EV has 20 moving parts compared to 2,000 in a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle, making it cheaper to maintain. Additional costs will be incurred when dedicated charging stations (wall-boxes) are installed. These fast-charging points can recharge batteries in 4-8 hours. UK Fuels and Pod Point UK provide electric vehicle charging solutions both on and off-road for companies running EVs.
Electric trucks come with many advantages, including better performance, lower maintenance, lower emissions, less noise disturbance and better efficiency. Micro logistics and electric vehicles are an important part of the urban future.
The Supply Chain Consulting Group (SCCG) can help you to understand how new technologies can be used in your business to improve the transportation and logistics point of view. Our directors are experienced logistics and transportation consultants who have worked closely with clients from all sectors and countries to improve or adopt knowledge into new technologies towards “Green Transportation”.