Research: designing zero-emissions containerized last-mile delivery systems

New research investigates the benefits of using swap containers in Two-Echelon (2E) urban delivery systems, which extend beyond the reduced handling costs and processing time in van-bike delivery systems. By drawing on the success of standardized freight containers in the international shipping industry, swap containers can substitute low-capacity vehicles in the first delivery echelon with large-capacity vehicles such as buses or trams. Standardization of swap containers can also encourage collaboration and bring economies of scale.

Carriers across the globe have implemented LEFVs equipped with swap containers. For instance, DHL employs cargo bikes in several European cities and participates in a New York City pilot program aiming to reduce traffic congestion and cut carbon emissions. German carrier Hermes collaborates with e-cargo bike manufacturers, including MAXPRO, ONE, and Citkar, intending to achieve 100 % emission-free deliveries in major German cities’ inner areas by 2025. Successful trials were launched in Dresden and Leipzig in 2021. DPD Germany also utilizes e-cargo bikes with swap containers for parcel deliveries in central parts of many German cities, thanks to a partnership with e-cargo bike manufacturer RYTLE. Swedish carrier MoveByBike employs cargo bikes designed by Radkutsche for parcel deliveries in Stockholm, aligning with their vision of a sustainable and efficient city-wide distribution system utilizing roads and bike paths.

The study proposes a 2E Capacitated Vehicle Routing Problem (2E-CVRP) and a modified multi-start heuristic solution algorithm to analyze the impact of (1) container standardization, (2) large-scale shipping of containers overnight with on-street and high-capacity public vehicles, and (3) decentralized deployment of satellites in Melbourne.

Results indicate that standardization can stimulate collaboration and reduce the required bike fleet by 8%. Shipping containers by overnight tram services can reduce total delivery costs by up to 25% and eliminate 190 km of daily van travel distances. Using car parking spaces as storage satellites can decrease operational costs by 8% and travel distances by 27.4%.

Source: Sina Mohri, S., Mohammadi, M., & Van Woensel, T. (2024). Designing zero-emissions containerized last-mile delivery systems: A case study for Melbourne. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 159, 104492.

Comments 1

  • Unlike most container-based urban logistics solutions, Finland has developed a fully autonomous loading and unloading technology for light cargo vehicles and mobile robots that takes advantage of any ground level location and extends the last mile indoors using wheeled mPods.

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