By 2030, in the Netherlands, all new cars must be zero-emission. The logistics sector will also switch from fossil fuels to electric power. This transition will only be possible if policies are made now and implemented to create a charging infrastructure that works well for the sector. How are the plans progressing and what are the obstacles? The international Future of Charging symposium in March 2020 provided valuable insights. Charging in the logistics sector calls for a different approach.’
Charging for logistics requires a different approach
The need for a different approach in the logistics sector is partly due to its diversity. Logistics includes everything from an engineer with a van or a deliverer with an internet order to a lorry supplying the catering industry or a truck delivering building materials. Most companies will charge their vehicles as much as possible on their own site; trucks, in particular, will mainly be charged in depots. But there will also be a need for charging in public space, for drivers who park their vans in the street at night. In addition, there will also be a demand for charging facilities en route. Such semi-public solutions already exist in the form of the FastNed, PitPoint, or Allego fast-charging sites, and other providers along the road at petrol stations or service areas. Charging a lot of vans or trucks at the same time makes new demands of charging infrastructure. It means, for example, that charging facilities need to have extra capacity available, not only in roadside service areas, industrial parks but also in cities.
What are the charging needs of the logistics sector?
According to Walther Ploos van Amstel, lecturer in City logistics at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, it is important to gain insight into the charging needs of the logistics sector to develop a charging infrastructure that functions well for everyone. Research on traffic flow in Amsterdam has shown that 90 percent of all journeys are made by vehicles belonging to companies from outside the city. This means that these vehicles need charging options not only in Amsterdam but also in surrounding towns.
There are four locations in which the demand for charging options will increase:
- At the carrier’s home base: This mainly means private charging options for which the property owner is responsible.
- Along main routes between major cities: These may be private or public charging stations located at service areas and filling stations.
- At locations where vehicles are unloaded or work is carried out.
- At parking locations in residential areas: Many commercial vehicle owners need to be able to charge their electric vehicle (EV) overnight, ready for the next working day.
But how will all these vehicles continue their journeys through cities? Various charging scenarios are possible. Some carriers’ vehicles might be able to get through an entire day on a single charge, while other carriers will need sufficient options to recharge their vehicles between deliveries. Whether vehicles will need to recharge during the day and how much partly depends on how EVs develop over the coming years. The larger the battery capacity, the fewer recharging stops will be needed. The choice of specific target groups, customers, and routes for which the vehicle is used is also crucial. The challenge for municipalities and the sector is therefore to find applications in which current and future types of vehicles are best suited, and on this basis to develop a growth scenario.
The transition to zero-emission transport will be expensive in the start-up phase due to the cost of purchasing an EV. According to various experts, at present, this is preventing small companies from making their fleets electric. Yet it is already the case that for delivery vans, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is no longer significantly higher for EVs than for diesel vehicles. The operating costs are lower and are expected to continue to fall in the future also to heavier trucks.
The market for electric trucks is changing
The development of electric trucks is still in its infancy. This is changing, says Jeroen Baartmans of the zero-emission transport company BREYTNER. His business has passed the pilot phase and has already been supplying customers for several years, in numbers that continue to grow. Electric trucks are about three times more expensive to purchase than regular trucks, says Baartmans. This is changing, but the question is how quickly. There might be opportunities for new manufacturers, such as the Dutch company VDL.
How do regulations support the transition?
The role of government at a national and local level is important in guiding the transition. While individuals are able to choose whether or not to switch to an EV, the transport sector does not have the choice, says Joris Knigge. ‘The sector is dependent on regulations. This can create a stable market and give businesses the little extra push they need to purchase EVs.’ Nienke Onnen of the environmental organization Natuur & Milieu (Nature & Environment) sees another reason to steer the transition in the right direction through regulation. ‘The sector is conservative,’ she says. ‘There are many ways in which financial incentives can help stakeholders in setting up an interesting business model.’ Subsidies, in whatever form, would be a great help, just as they are with EVs for private individuals.
A well-devised system of low-emission and zero-emission zones can contribute to a smooth and widely supported transition, says Walther Ploos van Amstel. ‘There are now low emission zones in four major cities. It works. But you need to look carefully at how you can develop this further. If the regulations are too strict, you will hit the transport sector too hard,’ he warns. Ploos van Amstel also notes that well-designed charging infrastructure, for example using charging hubs and smart charging, can save costs and is easier to achieve.
Good charging infrastructure starts with charging capacity
EV demand will increase significantly in all segments in the coming years. ‘Charging time is the magic word,’ says Hans Bekkers of VDL. ‘Good charging infrastructure starts with sufficient charging capacity. This is a matter not only for the sector but also for the grid operators and the government.’ However, experts also consider a proactive attitude to be necessary for a wider context. New players, in particular, can claim a role. Ploos van Amstel sees a future in the ‘vehicle as a service’ (VaaS) concept, for example, in which only mobility is important rather than car ownership. Governments can already respond to this by making technical possibilities available for the integration of intelligent traffic systems, for example, or the creation of so-called zero-emission corridors. Stakeholders should also be aware that a successful transition does not stop at the Dutch border; the Netherlands must cooperate with other European countries if it is to continue to realize its ambition as a frontrunner.
It might be achieved by incorporating charging infrastructure in the Regional Energy Strategy (RES) and in the NAL regions. On the basis of the NAL, six regions for cooperation have been established, each of which establishes its own a Regional Approach to Charging Infrastructure. NKL and the NAL working group Charging for Logistics are currently working on a Roadmap and on Logistics Guidelines These will offer concrete tools for governments and other stakeholders to prepare for the transition to commercial EVs.