Low-emission and electric vehicles are nothing new. However, there has been a slightly hazy history of doubt and failed initiatives when it comes to the utilisation of such technologies in the logistics industry. 

And there are some ideas which are just not feasible: easyJet, for example, have announced their plans to work in conjunction with US start up, Wright Electric, to develop an electric plane for the consumer sector. The proposed launch date for the passenger aircraft is as soon as 2030, with aims for short-haul flights (two hours and below) to be powered by batteries. When it comes to cargo-specific aircraft, there’s not a lot of news regarding significant advances or investment in electrified aircraft – except for when it comes to drones. Drones are seeing an uptake, particularly with some of the larger supply chain giants such as Amazon and Boeing.

So, when we look at how to create a greener supply chain, perhaps the most logical beginning is the ‘last mile’. 

The UK government’s Industrial Strategy aims to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the United Kingdom, investing in skills, industries and infrastructure. The Industrial Strategy has four ‘Grand Challenges’, one of which is ‘Clean Growth’, focusing on leading the world in the development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies, systems and services – and ensuring they cost less than their high carbon counterparts. 

Calling it a ‘grand challenge’ is accurate, but the initiative is also a huge opportunity for UK industry. It’s been estimated that the clean economy in the UK could grow by as much as four times the rate of GDP, with entire new industries being created as traditional industries are transformed. 

Freight in the City is one trade event which is leading the charge. The annual event brings together those in last mile logistics who operate in London. There were some impressive names on the show floor, from Mercedez-Benz Trucks – nominated for most innovative product of the year 2018 at this year’s FTA awards – to Calor gas and Hitachi. The companies exhibiting were all part of creating a solution for a low-carbon industry. 

I met on the exhibition floor with Sam Clarke, founder of last mile courier Gnewt Cargo, whose 100% electric vans have been transforming city centre deliveries. The company has established high-end clients such as ASOS and TNT, along with partnership support from The Mayor of London’s office who have supported twelve new inner-city logistics providers in their carbon-neutral goals.

When Sam founded Gnewt 10 years ago, he began his all-electric logistics journey, and the company has been fully electric ever since. The company took an even greater upward turn in January 2017, when it successfully bid for – and won – a share of £20 million funding provided by Innovate UK.  

Innovate UK is a Government body that supports innovation and provides funding for various initiatives throughout the UK. They put out a call two years ago for those working in the freight and logistics world, with the aim to try and incubate the uptake of larger electric vehicles. The resulting consortium of companies was named LEFT – Low Emission Freight Trial – and covers everything from smaller electric vans, such as those used by Gnewt, all the way up to gas-powered HGVs. 

 I bid for the grant funding. The trial was predominantly around larger electric trucks and heavy goods vehicles, but I knew there was such a strong case for smaller goods vehicles within the inner-city supply chain. We’ve already been using electric vehicles within inner-city London for the best part of a decade, and therefore air quality is already something we are contributing positively towards. What we’re not doing so well, like everybody else, is congestion. This, for me, was the opportunity to create a larger vehicle, which could then in turn handle larger loads and more goods, creating significantly improved efficiency. 

Small vans are currently the fastest growing form of road transport, spending around 9 million hours a year in inner-city London alone, according to Transport for London. To add insult to injury, delivery vans are parked for an estimated 65% of the working day, whilst the vans are either being loaded, or deliveries are being dropped, so there’s clearly a huge opportunity for increasing efficiencies.

  I spoke with the Greater London Authority, with whom I have been lucky enough to work over many years, who agreed to support me on this venture as our main partner. We have put 19 electric vehicles on the road, and we have another seven forthcoming. 

The vans have been reliable and have shown great promise already, with more than a year left of the trial (which has just been extended). 

I asked Sam about Gnewt Cargo’s plans for further innovation in the future, in particular with regards to increasing efficiency. 

 We have found further inefficiencies in the fact that as well as vans being stationary for a huge proportion of time, our couriers are currently walking more miles than they are driving in order to deliver parcels. Our plan is to use our vans as mobile depots. We can have a team of walking couriers on the ground, who can then meet the vans and take on multiple deliveries with destinations within a reasonable walking distance. The vans aren’t stopping, and hopefully we maintain our efficiency. 

Companies could do extremely well do follow this model of working – and it’s a more practical solution for smaller businesses who may not be able to afford upgrading their entire fleet to a battery-only model. Even smaller last mile companies should be able to find places where they can increase efficiencies, whether that’s by strategically planning delivery routes or utilising a method of working which shaves time off load drops. Keep your eyes peeled on the latest coming from the OLEV office and the Innovate UK trial.

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine  

Low-emission and electric vehicles are nothing new. However, there has been a slightly hazy history of doubt and failed initiatives when it comes to the utilisation of such technologies in the logistics industry. 

And there are some ideas which are just not feasible: easyJet, for example, have announced their plans to work in conjunction with US start up, Wright Electric, to develop an electric plane for the consumer sector. The proposed launch date for the passenger aircraft is as soon as 2030, with aims for short-haul flights (two hours and below) to be powered by batteries. When it comes to cargo-specific aircraft, there’s not a lot of news regarding significant advances or investment in electrified aircraft – except for when it comes to drones. Drones are seeing an uptake, particularly with some of the larger supply chain giants such as Amazon and Boeing.

So, when we look at how to create a greener supply chain, perhaps the most logical beginning is the ‘last mile’. 

The UK government’s Industrial Strategy aims to boost productivity by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the United Kingdom, investing in skills, industries and infrastructure. The Industrial Strategy has four ‘Grand Challenges’, one of which is ‘Clean Growth’, focusing on leading the world in the development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies, systems and services – and ensuring they cost less than their high carbon counterparts. 

Calling it a ‘grand challenge’ is accurate, but the initiative is also a huge opportunity for UK industry. It’s been estimated that the clean economy in the UK could grow by as much as four times the rate of GDP, with entire new industries being created as traditional industries are transformed. 

Freight in the City is one trade event which is leading the charge. The annual event brings together those in last mile logistics who operate in London. There were some impressive names on the show floor, from Mercedez-Benz Trucks – nominated for most innovative product of the year 2018 at this year’s FTA awards – to Calor gas and Hitachi. The companies exhibiting were all part of creating a solution for a low-carbon industry. 

I met on the exhibition floor with Sam Clarke, founder of last mile courier Gnewt Cargo, whose 100% electric vans have been transforming city centre deliveries. The company has established high-end clients such as ASOS and TNT, along with partnership support from The Mayor of London’s office who have supported twelve new inner-city logistics providers in their carbon-neutral goals.

When Sam founded Gnewt 10 years ago, he began his all-electric logistics journey, and the company has been fully electric ever since. The company took an even greater upward turn in January 2017, when it successfully bid for – and won – a share of £20 million funding provided by Innovate UK.  

Innovate UK is a Government body that supports innovation and provides funding for various initiatives throughout the UK. They put out a call two years ago for those working in the freight and logistics world, with the aim to try and incubate the uptake of larger electric vehicles. The resulting consortium of companies was named LEFT – Low Emission Freight Trial – and covers everything from smaller electric vans, such as those used by Gnewt, all the way up to gas-powered HGVs. 

 I bid for the grant funding. The trial was predominantly around larger electric trucks and heavy goods vehicles, but I knew there was such a strong case for smaller goods vehicles within the inner-city supply chain. We’ve already been using electric vehicles within inner-city London for the best part of a decade, and therefore air quality is already something we are contributing positively towards. What we’re not doing so well, like everybody else, is congestion. This, for me, was the opportunity to create a larger vehicle, which could then in turn handle larger loads and more goods, creating significantly improved efficiency. 

Small vans are currently the fastest growing form of road transport, spending around 9 million hours a year in inner-city London alone, according to Transport for London. To add insult to injury, delivery vans are parked for an estimated 65% of the working day, whilst the vans are either being loaded, or deliveries are being dropped, so there’s clearly a huge opportunity for increasing efficiencies.

  I spoke with the Greater London Authority, with whom I have been lucky enough to work over many years, who agreed to support me on this venture as our main partner. We have put 19 electric vehicles on the road, and we have another seven forthcoming. 

The vans have been reliable and have shown great promise already, with more than a year left of the trial (which has just been extended). 

I asked Sam about Gnewt Cargo’s plans for further innovation in the future, in particular with regards to increasing efficiency. 

 We have found further inefficiencies in the fact that as well as vans being stationary for a huge proportion of time, our couriers are currently walking more miles than they are driving in order to deliver parcels. Our plan is to use our vans as mobile depots. We can have a team of walking couriers on the ground, who can then meet the vans and take on multiple deliveries with destinations within a reasonable walking distance. The vans aren’t stopping, and hopefully we maintain our efficiency. 

Companies could do extremely well do follow this model of working – and it’s a more practical solution for smaller businesses who may not be able to afford upgrading their entire fleet to a battery-only model. Even smaller last mile companies should be able to find places where they can increase efficiencies, whether that’s by strategically planning delivery routes or utilising a method of working which shaves time off load drops. Keep your eyes peeled on the latest coming from the OLEV office and the Innovate UK trial.

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine