Micro Logistics Electric Vehicles – an important part of the urban future

Have you ever driven through the city with the feeling that everyone seems to try to make your journey slower? Or realized that everyone else is also going to the same place as you and the traffic jam seems endless?

It’s not a feeling – it’s real.

Traffic jam in the city

The average traffic speed is going down and in a city like London, it is currently 14 kph (8,6 mph).  It’s expected that the number of parcel deliveries will double by 2030. We need to have a sustainable approach to this issue. Pickup points and lockers are important for sure, but we also need to ensure that the vehicle or the tool used is as efficient as possible.  

Most goods and services are still moved by diesel and petrol vans which contribute up to a quarter of London’s Carbon emissions and PM 2.5 emissions from transport.  

And in the delivery boom during the pandemic, diesel van sales in the UK were up 82% (March 2021).

Are EVs the only solution? 

Unfortunately, that is not enough. Yes, we need to replace ICE vehicles, but if we replace all diesel vans with electric, we will still have the same number of vehicles. The air pollution will be better, but the congestions will be the same. And with a growth of parcel delivery of 40% from 2019 to 2020, there is no sign that this trend is about to reverse. 

Graphics from Parcel and Postal Technology International

E-commerce shopping is here to stay and the need for sustainable solutions increases rapidly. An increase of lookers and PUDO’s (pickup and drop-off points) will still be needed, but there will still be a great need for deliveries and pickups. What we need and have to work hard for, is higher efficiency in space, time, and energy. 

We need to use less space

A truck is the best way to transport large volumes and we will still need trucks into the city. But we need to empty them fast and send them out again. A van is a good tool when your deliveries are parcels with large volumes. What you then have left are all the small parcels. Your new phone cover should not be delivered by a diesel van. And it should not be delivered by a large electric van either. 

Let us do a fast thought experiment: 

If you fill up your 10 cubic meter van with phone covers it would be enough space for more than 37 000 phone covers. But if this was individual deliveries a van carrier would only be able to do around 150 deliveries per day. It would take the currier more than a year to deliver all the covers (!). 

37 000 phone covers will fit into a regular van

 But if the carrier fills up his Micro Logistics Electric Vehicle (MLEV) that has 1 cubic meter of cargo space, the carrier will be able to bring 3700 covers with him. And that would still be way more than he is able to deliver. He will use less energy because the vehicle is much smaller and, he will use less space in the city while delivering. The MLEV has its parcels in reach from the driver position, and with no doors and parking, it is easy for the carriers to deliver more than 200 small parcels in one working day. 

A traditional fleet compared to a sustainable and efficient fleet

Three things to remember:

  • Do not use more space on the road than you need  
  • Use the most efficient tool to do the work as efficient as possible  
  • Use minimum energy to perform that work 

Let’s hope that all vehicles in future cities are trying to be efficient in space-time and energy. 

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