The making of a sustainable vehicle fleet
The range of e-vehicles available is on the rise. From two to eighteen wheels, we’re continually testing what the market has to offer. Here’s a look at some of today’s sustainable mobility solutions for decarbonizing supply chains – and a glimpse of what’s in store for the near future.
Sustainable logistics is a journey of discovery
In the ever-changing world of logistics, the integration of electric vehicles (EVs) marks a pivotal shift toward sustainable logistics. Although much has transpired over the past decade, the transition is more akin to a long journey of discovery than a simple switch from one technology to another. In fact, when we wanted to add EVs to our fleet 10+ years ago, there weren’t a lot of options in the marketplace. So, we bought a startup EV company and developed our own.
Since then, we’ve tested almost every e-vehicle that has entered the market, assessing performance and matching it to our needs. KPIs like range, speed, payload, agility, and cost-benefit ratio determine which EVs make the cut.
Now, our fleet of sustainable vehicles spans entire supply chains – from the critical ‘first mile’ to the complex ‘last mile’. Let’s look at the diversity and versatility available today and how we utilize them in our operations.
Tough trendsetters – the pioneers of EV delivery
The EV market looked a lot different ten years ago. Interest in passenger vehicles was multiplying, but commercial EVs were lagging behind. With no options that satisfied our needs, we purchased StreetScooter and set out to develop our own electric delivery vehicle. With the help of our couriers, we designed the StreetScooter Work – a small, two-seater van with a cargo hold measuring four cubic meters. The flatbed above the wheel wells, dual sliding doors with vertical door handles, and an ergonomic cockpit were just a few of the innovations that made our couriers’ lives easier. Today, four models are part of our sustainable vehicle fleet, helping us make last-mile mail and parcel delivery clean and green.
Three legs but no footprints – pedaling the last mile
They say you shouldn’t start a story at the end, but the last mile is the most complex and costly link in the supply chain. With most last-mile deliveries in urban areas, greener solutions are crucial for reducing air and noise pollution. The last leg in the logistics journey is also the one that started going green first. In those places where we also deliver mail, like in Germany, our mail carriers have been pedaling downtown delivery routes for decades.
The era of e-bikes is opening up new possibilities, and that’s where the two- and three-wheeled members of our sustainable vehicle fleet come in. The quartet of e-bikes and e-trikes you see below can navigate narrow or crowded streets that larger vehicles can’t, making them the most agile e-vehicles in our operations.
Van versatility – meeting diverse logistics needs
Today's market offers a diverse array of electric vans, each designed to meet specific needs in the supply chain. From compact models adept at navigating narrow urban streets to larger variants equipped for more cargo, this versatility has allowed us to integrate different models into various stages of our operations, from last-mile deliveries to distribution center transits. That flexibility means we can deploy them where they can have the greatest impact. The combination of flexibility, efficiency, and eco-friendliness will make electric vans a transformative force in the logistics sector.
Large and in charge – electrifying the crucial ‘first mile’
The ‘first mile’ in logistics involves the initial movement of goods from the manufacturer or producer to a transportation hub or warehouse. It's the starting point of a product’s journey to the customer, a step that often determines the efficiency of the entire supply chain. The choice of vehicle depends on the type of goods transported, but the first mile usually involves large quantities or bulk items requiring heavy-duty trucks and trailers.
Electrifying this critical stage in the supply chain is no easy task because matching the performance of diesel-power trucks presents significant challenges. Slowly but surely, manufacturers are making inroads as battery technology improves, developing heavy-duty haulers with increasing range and speed. We were the first to test a fully electric truck in heavy-duty, long-distance transport – and since then, we’ve introduced several into our operations.
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New special-purpose vehicles are reshaping logistics – from warehouses to waterways
Supply chains are complex webs with countless movements across all modes of transport. To set new standards in sustainable supply chains, we need to make them all greener. And that includes special-purpose vehicles, like warehouse vehicles, watercraft, and – in the near future – regional aircraft! We’re adding vehicles like these to our sustainable fleet where we can and are always on the lookout for more e-mobility solutions for every link in the supply chain.
For example, the four vehicles you see below are helping us reshape sustainable shipping at warehouses, on the water, and in the air! The E-Triever and E-Wiesel are electric warehouse workhorses that can pull or carry big payloads. Our solar boat in Berlin utilizes the sun to extend its range, enabling us to take real advantage of the city’s waterways. And soon we’ll be taking e-mobility into the clouds with Alice, our electric cargo plane scheduled to take flight in 2027.
The journey continues
We are continuously modernizing our fleet, adding electric vehicles and introducing alternative drive systems. By 2030, we aim to have EVs handling 60% of our pick-ups and deliveries. Today, we operate more than 29,200 EVs worldwide.
That’s because the need for sustainable supply chains has never been greater. Thankfully, there are more and more options to help us reach our emission reduction goals.
As the world’s leading logistics company, we have worked hard to set an example for sustainable business, from introducing the industry’s first green product to being the first logistics company to commit to zero emissions. Learn more about Sustainability at DHL Group.
Updated: January 2024