More stringent environmental regulations require alternative delivery concepts. Electric vehicles are increasingly being used – but also multimodal solutions with delivery staff passing the cars on foot.

Jörg Hofmann has big plans. “We are creating a new vehicle segment here,” says the CEO of LEVC about the electric delivery van that the British subsidiary of the Chinese carmaker Geely will offer from autumn 2020. The special thing about the one-tonne truck, which is visually modelled on the knobbly black London taxi, is its range. At 600 km, it is significantly higher than previously available electric delivery vans such as the

Street scooters from Deutsche Post or the E-NV200 from Nissan, which can travel between 200 and 300 km on one battery charge. This maximum distance is not only possible in electric mode, admits Hofmann, who has been managing LEVC since February. The vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery on the rear axle. In purely electric mode, the vehicle only manages 130 km and lags behind the competition in this respect. It also has a small combustion engine that can charge the battery over longer distances. LEVC has been successfully testing this so-called “range extender” in taxis for one and a half years.

A van for within and outside the city

The van is the right solution not only for the last mile, but also for trips from the distribution center to the city centers, explains the former Audi manager. The engine is switched on overland, and in city centres with increasingly strict emission regulations the van is clean on the road. A sales office in Frankfurt, which will open in the summer, is also intended to boost sales on the continent. The delivery industry is in a quandary. The “Amazonisation” of trade with a rapidly growing importance of online orders is causing rapid growth for delivery services and van manufacturers. Take the example of Great Britain: According to the SMMT automobile association, there are 4.6 million delivery vans on the road today, 59 percent more than in 2000 – growth almost twice as strong as for passenger cars. Online trade in the London hotspot alone is still growing at rates of 12.5 percent per year. At the same time, however, emissions regulations are being tightened more and more because of climate change. Even congested streets are being met by metropolitan areas with stricter rules. London introduced a congestion charge in the city centre in 2003. At the beginning of April, an emissions allowance equivalent to EUR 14 per day was added for many petrol and almost all diesel models. Trucks even pay EUR 112 a day for access to the city centre. Experts agree: reducing emissions through electrification is an important step, but it is not enough in the long run. Regulation plays an important role in directing and reducing traffic. Transport for London (TfL), the authority responsible for all traffic in the metropolitan area, is a good example, says Agustín Martín, head of Toyota Connected in Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese car company. The city is pursuing a long-term transport strategy that goes beyond political cycles. “I was told directly: If you’re here to put more vehicles on the road, you can go again.”

New Approaches

was told to me directly: “If you’re here to put more vehicles on the road, you can go again.” Earlier this year, Ford Mobility tested another traffic reduction alternative. The US carmaker’s subsidiary has developed software that plans a multimodal delivery. This was tested together with the delivery service Gnewt, which relies entirely on electric vehicles. “One driver and six delivery staff, each on foot, worked together,” explains Tom Thompson, who is responsible for the project. The software helps to sort the shipments and plan routes. The parcels are placed in large bags with rolls, which the deliverers pick up when they meet the delivery vehicle. Oversized and heavy packages are delivered directly by the driver. “This group has done the job that would otherwise require four or five vans,” says Thompson. “And we can probably do even better.” The software is now being developed to include bikes and electric scooters. One day, drones or self-propelled vehicles could also be added. Delivery to central pickup points, supermarkets, newsagents or lockers is another model to reduce delivery trips. TfL is making targeted efforts to convince consumers and retailers of the advantages of “click and collect” solutions and will itself provide space for packing stations, for example in underground stations. Nevertheless, 88 percent of consumers still opt for home delivery, says Tim Robinson, head of Packstation provider Doddle. Meanwhile, the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and the furniture retailer Ikea are experimenting with electric load bicycles in the British capital to avoid the costs of the Ultra Low Emission Zone.

The LEVC delivery van has a range of 600 kilometres

Hospitals in the city centre use bicycles with cooling function to transport blood and tissue samples to the outsourced pathology department. DPD is completely switching its supply operations in central London to small electric vehicles. Eight micro-depots are being set up in the city, the first of which have been in operation since last autumn.

Some of these alternatives offer advantages beyond the environmental effects. The wearers hired for the model test were generally very satisfied with their job, says Thompson of Ford. “And they can deal with rush hours in a very different way. They are not exposed to the stress of a driver in a traffic jam.” Finally, they just march past the stationary cars.

By : Claudia Wanner, SHIFT Mobility x DVZ Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung