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Why there are there no national Net Zero logistics firms

Logistics UK mission statement
Logistics UK mission statement

Reaching Net Zero is rarely more difficult than in freight and logistics. An industry that must respond to rapid and increasing consumer demand must also respond to a similarly rapid climate deterioration.

With such a big effect, you'd be forgiven for thinkng the simple solution is to switch to electric vehicles, right?

Yet, here we are. There are no national Net Zero logistics unfortunately. However, the reasons why are interesting.

Freight and logistics are actually a multi-actor systems. While final mile is seeing a lot of electric or bike fleet make an appearance, trunk logistics, which is the intercity transport that lives on motorways, still makes heavy use of fossil fuels because there still isn't the range in electric trucks without stopping for long charging times and suffient density of infrastructure to unload consignments and then load them again into another vehicle. There isn't time nor money for this in logistics systems.

This means when looking for a national provider, the best you end up with is:

  • Using an offset

  • Find a provider that uses a very rare electric freight train (only 10% are hauled by electric and it depends if the line is electrified and almost zero by hydrogen) which can drop off at a final mile location.

  • Use a service like us at which manufactures at the customer end. Cutting out the trunk part, which is effectively being done digitally. Leaving only final-mile to complete, which deploys EV or bike. That becomes the only transport (thus proper EV and Net Zero).

Logistics UK have acknowledged the sector needs to do more. They recognise that it will be almost impossible to decarbonise completely. We certainly argue that logistics should be adopting hybrid digital models and using services like ours for commodity products that are ultimately distributed from transit. Since you cut out the biggest contribution of a product's footprint and better still, traceable Scope 3 to boot!

A Case Study

We have a hybrid fleet of electric vans and e-bikes. Ouor vans have a 172 mile range on and while in theory that means we should be able to get to London with one stop to charge, EV ranges are only made possible with a systemic interplay with regenerative braking. Motorway driving doesn't require as much braking. So EVs never get the recharge boost. Meaning that in real terms, we get 70 miles of range on a motorway and have to stop for half an hour at a time.

In logistics, time and wheel rotations are money. It is financial suicide for trunk firms to go electric at the moment. It would require a rapid load-unload process, significant extra space and redistribution centres to stop at, to transfer load and then charge. Costing a fortune and deforesting land.

This leaves logistics in a quandry an under threat from new models. The sector is now highly reliant on Amazon. Which itself, carries significant risk. From a climate perspective, reducing purchases and buying locally are absolutely the right things to do to reduce emissions and garner better social value. Yet, this comes at the expense of fewer lorry driving jobs and more electric van.

What ideas do you think would help the transport industry?

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