Across Europe, cities and their freight logistics companies are seeking to reduce emissions from deliveries. There are plenty of pilots, in the likes of Gothenburg, Manchester, Hamburg, Dublin and Paris, but can the efforts be scaled up and widened to many more cities and regions?


If you are starting from scratch, then this can naturally ease the way forward. In Gothenburg, within a new residential and commercial development in the former harbour area of Frihamnen, close to the city centre, there is an aim to have only 10 per cent car use for journeys (the comparable figure for the city centre is 23 per cent and 46 per cent in the municipality).

Ultimately, there will be homes for 15,000 residents, with 1000 residences and 1000 workplaces scheduled for completion by 2021. The car usage goals are commendable but one result of fewer car journeys could be more online shopping, which would result in more deliveries, points out Lina Olsson of Swedish forum for better transport efficiency, Closer (

So for Frihamnen there is also the aim of zero emission deliveries. “We are focusing on the entire urban supply chain,” says Olsson. This includes using the city’s extremely under-utilised waterways and having consolidation centres and mobility hubs for deliveries, from where smaller vehicles can take over.

For the waterways aspect, a pilot has used barges to bring in containers, with distribution from here by bike. In the other direction, a pilot has used barges to remove waste. The ideal would be electric barges, perhaps autonomous ones, says Olsson, but this will need supporting infrastructure, including at the quaysides.

For this, as well as for things like car pools, the city will need to work with partners, such as real estate companies, and will need to consider the requirements within the planning process.

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Artist’s impression of the new Gothenburg area of Frihamnen


One thing that individual cities and local authorities can do is put their own houses in order. For instance, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has reduced deliveries of stationery to its offices by 86 per cent, through initially monitoring all of the different departments and their suppliers, then consolidating and rationalising these.

Air quality is a key focus in Greater Manchester, which in turn has increased the emphasis on logistics, says TfGM’s freight programme senior manager, Richard Banks. The legal requirement to improve air quality now reside with local authorities in the UK and, among other things, Manchester has been piloting detector cards on one route into the centre which can trigger green light extensions to keep HGVs moving.

The potential is being studied as well to increase freight by water, particularly using the Manchester Ship Canal, which in many ways would take things full circle, returning some freight to 19th century routes.

Improving logistics also spans better safety. In Manchester, Triximirrors have been installed on some junctions where there have been incidents to improve visibility of cyclists for HGV drivers turning left; 1200 commercial drivers have been on Urban Safe Driving courses.

The Logistics Companies – UPS

“Cities are telling us, business as usual with diesel delivery vehicles is no longer good enough,” says Peter Harris, director of sustainability for UPS Europe. Improved efficiency reduces emissions but that is not enough, he says, so there will need to be alternative fuels and technologies.

On the efficiency side, like other delivery companies, UPS has a rolling programme to improve how it goes about things. It has its satellite-based On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (Orion) system that seeks to make as efficient as possible the average 120 delivery and pick-up stops per day of its vehicles.

It also has ‘UPS PackPerfect’ that reduces wasted space in boxes and in vehicles, in part through laser-based measuring. The company claims a 44 per cent package volume saving as a result.

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UPS’s first extended range fuel cell electric vehicle prototype

Lightweight composite vehicles are due to roll out this year and, with UK government support, UPS is aiming for an all-electric central London operation. Given the pattern of deliveries and pick-ups, the move to wholly electric vehicles will need smart girds and computer-optimised vehicle recharging. However, Harris believes that in a few years the industry will solve this, which will allow electric vehicles to be deployed at lower overall cost than non-electric. “Then it will be a game-changer, why wouldn’t you do it?”

More immediately, in a number of German cities, UPS has been piloting cycle-based deliveries, with another pilot now under way in Dublin. In the Hamburg pilot, it has done away entirely with motorised vehicles in the centre.

“Cities are telling us, business as usual with diesel delivery vehicles is no longer good enough”

Peter Harris, UPS

The model has been refined and UPS is confident it can be operated at scale, says Harris. “Cycles can get much closer to the customer… they reduce walk time, they improve efficiency, and customers love it because they like to see cycles parked outside, not trucks.” In really dense cities, he anticipates electric bikes with trailers.

UPS’s stated goals are that, globally, 25 per cent of all vehicles purchased will be alternative fuels and technologies by 2020, with this at 40 per cent by 2025, at which point 25 per cent will be electric. Waterways are of interest, says Harris, and there were some experiments around the London Olympics, but they can be very labour intensive and complicated, which can make them expensive.

La Poste

One logistics company that has been making good progress is La Poste in France. Since 2014, it has acquired 11,000 electric vehicles and 20,000 electric bikes. It has a dominant position in its domestic market (it claims a 70 per cent market share) but also operates internationally.

It has worked with local authorities in cities such as Toulouse, where it won a tender to be the provider for the city’s food hall and neighbouring logistics area. Here it is using both electric vehicles and bikes. In Bordeaux, a local logistics hub is linked to delivery by foot and bike.

In Paris, a city-wide system is planned which will create a number of micro-depots with the aim of having all parcels in the city delivered by foot. Currently there are on average around 1000 vans per day entering Paris, with over 2000 on peak days, so the goal is an ambitious one.

In Grenoble, air quality is typically poor, in part due to the geography, with mountains around it and only a few, busy arteries into the centre. La Poste is one partner (with a 20 per cent share holding) alongside other logistics companies, partners and investors of a company, EVOL (Espaces de valorisation et d’optimisation logistiques), which will seek to drive down emissions from deliveries via consolidation centres which would handle a wide range of goods.


As usual, there is the question of how all of these types of projects can be replicated at speed. Harris points out that the challenge, even for a company the size of UPS, is that there are not the resources to do individual projects with all cities. The challenge will be to scale but also to ensure that the solutions are specific to each individual city, he concludes. However, it is clear that for many cities, logistics is now viewed as a key component of reducing emissions, with the logistics companies having to respond in order to keep doing business.