date01 October 2021

Electric vehicle range: Is it enough for the logistics sector?

Electric vehicles (EVs), a subject that has firmly found its way into the media spotlight in recent years - and it is only growing. The government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 is in full swing, with industries across the globe set to be affected – the logistics sector will be no stranger to this impact.

EVs, their capabilities and benefits have been reiterated as a knock-on result of the fuel crisis – with BP last week announcing several petrol stations were forced to close amid HGV driver shortages. While the crisis is said to be stabilising, the spotlight has been on EVs and their benefits, with individuals naturally deliberating further over the benefits of electric-powered vehicles, which cannot be disputed.

We discuss the rise of EVs, advantages and considerations of the technology to the logistics sector and the state of play with regards to UK commercial vehicle trials.

The EV revolution

Impacting upon the world’s automotive giants, countless manufacturers, including Ford and General Motors have pledged to go fully electric by 2035, if not before. With both premium and household vehicle manufacturers pledging to embrace EV technology, the revolution is well underway, with many hybrids and EVs already available on the market.

The impending EV shift will have a significant impact on the logistics sector, with plenty for this industry to consider as the EV revolution is sure to take hold. We discuss EV advantages and considerations in more detail below.

The benefits of EVs for the logistics sector

The shift to electric-powered fleets brings with it a host of advantages to the logistics industry, such as:

  • No fuel, no emissions
  • Low maintenance
  • Reliability / less breakdowns due to fewer components subject to wear and tear
  • Fuel savings in hybrid vehicles

Participating countries may also offer the following benefits:

  • Fiscal benefits and free tolls
  • Public charging stations
  • Refunded parking rates
  • Dedicated lanes

Considerations for the logistics sector

Despite the rise in the manufacturing and commercialisation of electric vehicles, the supply chain remains presented with several challenges that will need to be addressed by logistics companies and governments alike, such as:

  • ·         Speed performance – Lower speeds will be achieved in EVs compared to their internal combustion engine counterparts, which may affect delivery times, route            planning and customer satisfaction rates.
  • ·         Potential delays - Lower energy density of batteries compared to traditional fuel – which could cause delays for the supply chain.
  • ·         Delivery times and productivity – Increased battery recharge time (six – eight hours approximately) compared to fast fill of petrol/diesel tanks could impact                    delivery times and productivity levels.
  • ·         Route changes – Changes to pre-planned routes are likely due to batteries unexpectedly running out.
  • ·         Safety – The lack of public charger stations located across the country compared to petrol stations could affect driver safety and the security of onboard cargo.
  • ·         Financial impact – The entire supply chain will incur a financial impact due to planning, execution, and control process costs.

Electric delivery vehicle trials

The logistics sector has been no stranger to EVs and testing their suitability, with the Mayor of London and Gnewt Cargo securing funding from Innovate UK to run a commercial electric vehicle trial. The exercise ran up until the end of December 2019 and was used to evaluate the performance, impact andcommercial viability of using electric vehicles for last-mile deliveries incentral London.  

Commercial freight vehicles make up 30 per cent of all traffic in central London, completing an estimated 281,000 journeys each day. The trial was part of the Mayor of London’s plans to reduce air pollution and work with freight companies to reduce the number of lorries on London roads.

Trial findings Key findings from the trial included:

  • ·         Trial electric vans, with their larger capacity, delivered on average 30 per cent more parcels per week compared to smaller vehicles, leading to reduced                        congestion by making fewer trips.
  • ·         The electricity cost to charge trial vans was 75 per cent less than the fuel costs (based on 2019 price data) to run their diesel equivalents.
  • ·         The trial electric vans by Voltia and Vic-Young used five times less energy per km than their diesel equivalents.

The full report findings can be read here.

The future?

EVs are set to shake up the logistics sector on a nationwide and global scale, and their impact on the supply chain cannot be disputed. However, the significant challenges that the sector will be faced with due to the EV shift must be carefully considered and addressed by logistics companies and governments to mitigate against threats to productivity, customer service, performance and financial loss.

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