The adoption of electric vehicle (EV) technologies provides a huge potential opportunity for the courier industry to significantly reduce its carbon footprint. But while several barriers are already limiting timescales of adoption across the industry, Mike Gratton of World Options considers how current political developments could also affect widescale transition.

As a major part of the global economy, the shipping and courier industry has massive potential to assist worldwide efforts in achieving net zero, if it is able to implement changes on a cross-industry scale.

One of the largest opportunities comes from the potential widescale transition to EVs, though there are still several barriers to comprehensive adoption. 

Current barriers include underdeveloped charging infrastructure, anxiety around long-term EV performance, and also both EV availability and affordability. Charging infrastructure is particularly challenging for courier drivers who cover many miles each day, meaning the limited battery range of many EVs currently on the market can make it difficult for courier drivers to opt for electric vehicles.

That said, several of the major courier companies are investing in EV logistics and planning to expand their zero-emission EV fleets over the next ten years. So, while the use of electric vehicles in the courier industry appears to be increasing, the industry-wide transition is expected to be gradual. 

On an infrastructure level though, many are arguing that recent political developments could impact the pace of EV adoption. In the UK for instance, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year announced a major U-turn on key green targets, including delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel cars announced by his predecessor Boris Johnson.

This move has been criticised in some quarters for potentially increasing long-term costs and threatening the UK’s reputation as a global leader on climate issues, while vehicle manufacturers have accused the Government of moving the goalposts after they have already committed to major technological investments based on the previous targets.

Meanwhile in the US, some have commented on a growing anti-EV sentiment among some right-wing politicians. Former President Donald Trump, now vying to regain the presidency, and other US conservative politicians have criticised EV policies, arguing that they threaten jobs and national security by increasing dependence on China, which controls much of the world’s battery minerals and manufacturing.

While these developments are not particularly helpful for an industry trying to improve its climate impact, and while significant challenges remain for the widespread adoption of EV technology in the courier industry, these are not insurmountable.

Working together to a common cause, and with continued investment in infrastructure, technological advancements, and supportive policies, the courier industry can play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change.

Mike Gratton is managing director of World Options Holdings Ltd which manages three brands in the UK; Mail Boxes Etc., PACK & SEND and World Options, providing ecommerce, fulfilment, shipping, virtual office, marketing and print solutions to SMEs and consumers. Companies within the group now maintain and support over 260 franchisees, generating combined annual revenues of £80m.