Natasha Fry, head of fleet and workplace charging sales at Mer, explores the cost, health and environmental benefits switching to electric courier vehicles can bring for businesses and cities.

Often overwhelmed with congestion, urban areas have become a hotspot for air pollution and road emissions. In an effort to decarbonise and embrace the transition to cleaner and greener cities, many local authorities have introduced Low Emission Zones (LEZ) to the reduce the number of polluting Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles on the road, and to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs).

There are already over 300 LEZs in Europe and 15 in the UK including in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This number is only likely to increase as more cities look to address their environmental impact. With last-mile courier delivery fleets frequently having to deliver within these zones, they have a big impact on a city’s carbon emissions and will also bear the brunt of LEZ charges.

Electrify to reduce impact

Transport is responsible for nearly a quarter of the UK’s emissions and freight transport makes up one-third of this. Due to the rise of home delivery and free returns, the carbon impact of last-mile delivery vehicles is not entirely surprising. Some estimates suggest that they can be responsible for between 20 to 30% of a city’s emissions.

Motor vehicle engines also contribute to air pollution as they emit a range of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. This causes poor air quality in cities, which has been associated with life-altering health conditions including heart, lung, and respiratory diseases. With around 25% of products bought and returned online and around 3 billion parcels sent per year, switching to an electric courier fleet has the potential to make a real positive environmental and health impact on urban areas and our communities.

Electrify to save money

Last-mile delivery fleets already represent a huge cost to businesses. For companies that frequently need to deliver to destinations within a LEZ, the additional costs incurred for driving ICE last-mile courier fleets could be substantial.

If we take the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for an example, the current daily charge is £12.50 for vehicles that don’t meet the Euro emission standard, with a penalty of £180 if not paid. If one vehicle entered the zone every day for a month, this would incur a cost of around £375. When this number is multiplied to include multiple fleet vehicles and across a year, LEZ zones quickly become a big cost consideration for non-electric last-mile delivery fleets. And this price is only expected to increase as more cities embrace low emission initiatives.

On top of avoiding LEZ charges, transitioning to electric already offers a whole host of practical and cost benefits for businesses. For example, the average ICE has an efficiency of only around 40%, with 60% lost via heat and friction. As a result, ICEs consume far more energy travelling the same distance as an EV. With fewer parts, EVs also have much lower maintenance costs, which are on average 30% less than ICE vehicles. Add the fact charging is lower than the price of a full tank of petrol or diesel, it’s clear that the total cost of operation parity can be reached.

Where to start

Transitioning to an electric last-mile delivery fleet is not only a beneficial choice for urban environments and air quality, but it’s an economically viable choice that could bring big cost benefits to businesses in the long-term. While most fleet managers are aware of the need to electrify, it can be complicated to know where to start. Mer has recently produced a new guide to help last mile logistics managers properly understand the process to follow, wherever they are in their electrification journey.  

By Alison