Electric vehicles in the last mile: a sustainability assessment of postal deliveries in Brazil

The rise of e-commerce activities increases the complexity of the last-mile of parcel deliveries and its impacts on the environment and quality of life. A new paper proposes a method to assess alternative strategies for the last-mile of parcel deliveries, in terms of social, environmental, and economic impacts and presents for a postal company Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The researchers from Rio de Janeiro did a literature review to develop realistic alternatives to the baseline scenario, which operates with diesel propelled light-duty vehicles. The researchers verified monthly reductions per route in the emission of air pollutants and GHG by replacing a fossil-fueled LDV used in the traditional strategy (TID strategy) by an electric LDV (AID strategy) or electric tricycles (TED strategy), considering end-use and life-cycle emissions.

Despite these environmental benefits, the total AID strategy’s delivery-cost per route increased 6.16% in comparison to the TID strategy, due to the price of the electric LDV. In the DET strategy, they verified a reduction of 27.9% in the total delivery-cost per route, besides a decrease in the emission of pollutants and GHG. Concerning the level of service, the observed a 26% increase in productivity, when comparing the DET strategy with TID and AID strategies. Therefore, the analysis showed that the electric tricycle alternative is feasible in the economic, environmental and social aspects, as well as in the maintenance of the level of service.

The study verified that using electric tricycles as an alternative for last mile postal distribution in the city of Rio de Janeiro was able to promote the economic, environmental and social aspects, maintaining the level of service. Moreover, the proposed modeling framework could also be adopted by futures studies to assess alternative policies, such as urban distribution centers, mobile depots, cycle paths, off-hour deliveries, and others.

Source: de Mello Bandeira, R. A., Goes, G. V., Gonçalves, D. N. S., Márcio de Almeida, D. A., & de Oliveira, C. M. (2019). Electric vehicles in the last mile of urban freight transportation: A sustainability assessment of postal deliveries in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 67, 491-502.

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