Charge Automotive powers ahead with electric truck assembly plant

Charge Automotive has signed a 15-year lease on a site to build its new range of ‘affordable’ electric trucks for the UK marketplace.

The automotive technology firm will base its first assembly plant at a 111,560ft² warehouse at Banbury Cross, Oxfordshire – close to junction 11 of the M40 and with easy access to the Midlands, London and the Home Counties.

Trucks built at the site, which will range from 3.5-tonnes to 26-tonnes, will be ultra lightweight, autonomous ready, and comply with London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and proposed Direct Vision Standard.

The company said it wants to “remove the barriers to entry” for electric vehicles by pricing the new trucks in line with conventional vehicles.


TRL publishes white paper on tackling transport emissions in urban areas

TRL has used National Clean Air Day (15 June) to publish a new report about tackling road emissions in urban areas.

Through its new white paper – A Breath of Fresh Air: A Holistic Approach to Reconcile Future Transport with Improved Air Quality – TRL examines the problem of poor air quality in towns and cities and actions being trialled today to reduce pollution.

Drawing from discussions at TRL’s annual symposium in November 2016, the report aims to provide an unbiased resource that provides clarity on the many different streams of work already taking place to tackle urban air quality.

TRL director Nick Reed said: “At TRL, we believe that the sheer scope of these approaches necessitates the involvement and cooperation of an equally wide range of key stakeholders in forging a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to tackling the problem.”

Speakers from national government, TfL, academics from Kings College London and TRL provide insight for the white paper.



Kuehne + Nagel trials hydro-electric refrigeration units in urban areas

Kuehne + Nagel (K+N) is operating two Carrier Transicold engineless refrigeration systems on its Whitbread contract to test out their environmental and performance capabilities.

The multi-temperature units are fitted to an 18-tonne Mercedes-Benz Econic and a 26-tonne Daf CF and feature low-noise, Piek-compliant technology suited to urban areas.

They run entirely on hydro-electric power generated by the trucks’ Euro-6 engines – removing the need for a separate diesel engine.

Carrier Transicold said this helps reduce environmental impact by cutting emissions and improving fuel efficiency, whilst also reducing maintenance costs.

Both units have been specified with R452A refrigerant, which has the same cooling capacity, fuel efficiency, reliability and refrigerant charge as R404A, but offers a 45% reduction in Global Warming Potential (the measurement used to show the different environmental impact of gases).

“Within the lifetime of these vehicles, fleets in major cities are going to be facing stricter rules surrounding vehicle emissions,” said Andrew Blake, K+N national distribution manager.

“After consulting with [hire firm] Petit Forestier, we felt it was the perfect time to put Carrier Transicold’s new engineless transport refrigeration technology to the test.”

Both vehicles are in daily operation in a busy urban environment, transporting a mix of ambient, chilled, and frozen produce to the Whitbread-owned Premier Inn chain.

The Daf is based in Wellingborough and delivers into Birmingham and Nottingham, both of which will include a Clean Air Zone by 2020;  the Econic – which allows the driver to sit much lower than in a conventional distribution truck – operates in London, which will enforce the country’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone by 2019.

Whitbread logistics director Brodie McMillan said: “If these units deliver the benefits we’re expecting, Kuehne + Nagel will be looking to introduce the same technology into our delivery fleet, reducing the environmental impact of our vehicles and helping to improve air quality.”


European H2Share project to build and test 27-tonne hydrogen fuel cell rigid truck

A European project to help build a market for zero-emission, long-distance distribution trucks using hydrogen fuel cell technology has been launched.

Led by Belgian hydrogen association WaterstofNet, the H2Share project will see a 27-tonne electric, fuel cell-extended rigid truck built by Dutch vehicle manufacturer VDL.

Alongside this, a low-energy, mobile hydrogen refuelling system will be built by German firm Wystrach.

The zero-emission truck and mobile refuelling technology will be put on trial in six locations across Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

H2Share’s ambition is to deliver proof of readiness of hydrogen technology for heavy duty applications in real-life operations.

Based upon the trials and cooperation with sector-related associations, a joint roadmap for zero-emission HGVs in north-west Europe will be developed and cooperation with other EU regions initiated.

The project, which runs until March 2020, wants to promote knowledge sharing between regions and stimulate technology and market development in north west Europe.

California has also announced plans this week to build the business case for hydrogen HGVs through a new modelling tool.

Free LoCITY roadshow for freight operators looking to switch to electric vehicles


LoCITY, sponsored by TfL, is to host a free-of-charge roadshow for freight operators looking to run electric vans or trucks on their fleets.

The electric roadshow is the first of four free interactive events to help operators experience the latest ultra-low-emission commercial vehicles.

Other sessions scheduled are: gas, hydrogen and fuels in action (which includes renewable fuels and retrofit solutions).

The electric vehicle roadshow will be a half-day event held on the morning of 12 July at the University of East London.

Visitors will be able to see a selection of electric vans and trucks available to operate; learn about charging infrastructure; and understand the commercial benefits of operating electric vehicles.

Register your interest to attend today to receive further information.

Clocs rolls out pilot scheme to help HGV operators assess delivery site conditions

A tool to show HGV operators the ground conditions they will encounter at construction and waste sites has been developed for Clocs by consultancy Aecom.

Announced at last week’s Tip-ex and Tank-ex shows in Harrogate, the new website tool grades all sites with a five-star rating (see box, below) to show which vehicles will be able to access them.

The aim is to help operators confidently order low-entry-cab models (LEC) and N3 (on-road) trucks as opposed to traditionally picking N3G specification HGVs for operations that never face the true off-road conditions they are designed for.

The site assessment is based on four ground-condition categories: approach angle; materials; rutting and bumps; and water. These four categories have been identified as the most important factors in determining which vehicle types can operate on sites safely.

Weather can considerably effect site conditions and alter the outcome of the rating, so assessment ensures to take this into consideration.

Clocs on-site ground conditions rating
• 5 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for all vehicle types including LECs (in all weather conditions)
• 4 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for all vehicle types including LECs (weather permitting)
• 3 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for most vehicle types including on- and off-road capable HGVs (not LECs)
• 2 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for off-road capable HGVs only (in all weather conditions)
• 1 Star: Site ground conditions only suitable for plant machinery and weather permitting, may be suitable for off-road capable HGVs

In the first stage of the pilot, all sites across the South East – as the project has been funded by TfL – have received a provisional rating based on satellite imagery.

The next stage will see the rollout of a guidance handbook, also available online, to all sites, with owners encouraged to verify their rating through a simple assessment procedure.

“Should we then start rolling this out across the UK? Are the categories right?” asked independent logistics consultant at firm AtoH Glen Davies, who encouraged feedback from operators. “This is a pilot and is the first time it’s ever been done.”

Speaking to Tip-ex visitors at the Clocs seminar session, Davies said the logistics sector had already stepped up to the challenge of making vehicle movements as safe as possible in an urban environment.

However, he added as London mayor Sadiq Khan’s political aim is to remove “dangerous trucks” from the capital’s streets, it was essential that site conditions were of a good standard to avoid contributing to the issue.

“There is a real balance of need to make sure the physical conditions are right,” he said. “We need to improve the sites to make sure vehicles aren’t damaged and remain fit for the road.”

Davies added: “In Scandinavia they do it really well. Trucks never have to leave the hardstanding, so only need N3G specs when working on a site and never leave it; demonstrating a segregated approach to the use of their vehicles.”


Business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans to be modelled in California

The business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans, and the number of refuelling sites needed to support commercial operation is to be mapped out in California.

It will be carried out through a partnership between Ricardo Strategic Consulting and the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP).

Ricardo’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator can be used to analyse a wide range of alternative fuel technologies – such as natural gas, battery electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

It provides a detailed report of both upfront and operating costs incurred over the ownership period of the truck or van, including benchmarked vehicle prices, duty-cycle based MPG, itemised scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs, future fuel prices and required infrastructure investment.

This is complemented by economic modelling of refuelling infrastructure to provide a picture of installation and operational costs for new sites.

Ricardo said it enables vehicle manufacturers, operators, transport authorities and urban planners to make informed decisions about the rollout of new technology.

It will be used to support California’s aim to enable adoption of fuel cell technology in HGVs and vans, following CaFCP’s strategy released last year: Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric truck action plan.

“Economic modelling and assessment is vital in identifying and overcoming barriers to the commercialisation of advanced technology, and to developing a strong business case against which customers can invest,” said Piyush Bubna from Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

“Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks will play a crucial role in reducing vehicle emissions in California,” said Bill Elrick, CaFCP executive director, “but they are at the beginning stages of introduction.”

He added: “Ricardo’s TCO model provides an enabling toolset that will help CaFCP members develop a consensus as to the potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology, as an alternative to diesel propulsion in truck fleets operating in California.”

California is to be the testbed for Toyota’s Project Portal trial, which will see a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell concept truck hit the roads this summer.

Last-mile logistics report says ‘free delivery’ mentality must be stopped

A new report commissioned by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has found that the general public’s belief that delivery is free is something to be challenged urgently if urban distribution is to remain viable.

ITC director Matthew Niblett said: “People are waking up to the fact that freight produces a large and increasing portion of daily road miles, particularly during the peak hours.

“With online retail delivery volumes increasing by 10% in 2016, we need individuals, businesses and public organisations to break out of the free delivery mindset.”

He added: The government, metro mayors, transport authorities, local authorities and other public bodies need to get on the front-foot to drive change through a combination of actions.

“These include establishing a conducive regulatory framework, interrogating their supply chains, harnessing new technologies, and seed funding consolidation centres until the necessary scale is achieved to allow these to operate independently; all the while encouraging behavioural change from all quarters, including suppliers, customers, the logistics operators and staff employed by public bodies.”

Key challenges cited in the report, How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK?, include congestion, poor air quality, noise and timing of deliveries, and the last-mile conundrum – all highly emotive factors the haulage industry finds itself both contributing towards and falling victim to.

But what should cities be looking to introduce to tackle them? ITC focuses on three case studies that could help to improve city logistics.


First, it looks at retiming deliveries, with a snapshot of a successful shoulder-hour delivery trial (deliveries outside peak hours but not necessarily overnight) carried out by DHL Supply Chain with one of its retail customers in Camden High Street, North London.

The store used in the two-month trial was located on a busy high street with deliveries only possible to the rear of the building, down narrow streets.

Multiple vans per day had to be deployed, parked up some distance from the store on double yellow lines with  roll cages pushed along the street by the driver.

Residents complained about the noise, PCNs were regularly incurred, and – arguably – far more vehicles were used than necessary to meet the store’s stock demands.

The trial saw deliveries shifted to 8.30pm, outside of peak hours, a time agreed with both the retailer and TfL. Deliveries were rerouted to the front of the shop, which allowed larger trucks to be used, and removed the noise nuisance to the residents at the rear, with special dispensation granted to DHL to allow it to park in a bus lane.

As a result of the trial, significant cost savings were made: 13.4% in road miles (delivery vehicles were halved); 13.1% in drivers’ wages; 3.7% in time efficiency; and 32.9% in PCN avoidance.

The operation is now permanent.

ITC concluded the trial had demonstrated clear benefits to urban policymakers and hauliers, such as improved safety, reduction in congestion and vehicle journeys as well as their resultant emissions.

However it said retiming remains a slow process, with many parties involved to make it a success.

ITC urges players to share their experiences with other businesses and hauliers, with a call to government to find new ways of conveying these messages to the wider industry.

Urban consolidation

A second case study explored the successful model of the London Boroughs Consolidation Centre (LBCC), still in operation today, managed by DHL following a competitive tender in 2015.

By streamlining deliveries to council-owned sites, major supply chain savings were made as well as a reduction in congestion.

The ITC believes urban consolidation centres can offer an important opportunity to reduce freight movements, however the widespread take-up of such models face the challenge of scale and cost.

Local government subsidies are often needed – for example the LBCC still receives around £65,000 from the mayor’s Air Quality Fund – yet with increased volume such models should become self-sustaining.

Procurement is seen as a valuable tool to driving volume, as are local authority incentives or, on the flipside, penalties for non-use.

Alternative modes

You have no doubt seen recent media coverage of autonomous delivery robots scooting around town delivering food and parcels, but are they really a viable player in the last-mile delivery sector or just a gimmick?

Launched by the creators of Skype, the Starship Technologies robots are designed to operate 99% autonomously at pedestrian speed on pavements and deliver goods within 30 minutes.

Congestion on a London street

They can carry up to 10kg of goods and have so far proven 100% tamper-proof, fitted with an array of security sensors, GPS tracking and on-board cameras.

This has been the case over the 35,000km driven in total, of which 5,000km were in the UK and at least four million people encountered one on the streets (as of spring 2017).

With these robots, Starship seeks to address the cost of the last-mile delivery, which is estimated by the ITC to be around £6-£12 (the main cost being the driver’s wage). If the company achieves the scale it desires, then it targets a cost for this last mile of £1 per delivery, around 10% the cost of a human-based operation.

A small corner shop, retailer or restaurant can hire a robot for their deliveries – similar to a lease agreement – place goods inside and dispatch it to the customer, who then enters a secure code from an app to unlock the unit.

This business model is fundamentally different to other autonomous delivery methods on trial, as Starship is selling a service, rather than a product: owning both the model and the liability solves a key issue facing the autonomous sector, according to the ITC.

Starship has also been pushing hard with countries’ governments to develop legislation to help grow this new sector.

In the UK, the company has been in talks with the DfT and the chancellor to secure a regulatory framework for what they call a Personal Delivery Device, with an expansion of its business built on the assurance this would be in place this year.


The ITC pulls together some key messages from its research:

  • Collaborate to succeed – it is clear that the success of urban freight solutions depends on the wide range of parties to work together and make compromises for a common good, as well as cost savings.
  • Behaviour change – at the root of all case studies was the need to change expectations and mindsets of businesses and consumers.
  • Understand the trade-offs – addressing one urban freight issue might negatively affect other objectives.
  • Support innovation – financial and/or regulatory support from policymakers is important.
  • Scale – sufficient scale is often essential to the economic viability of new schemes, such as consolidation centres.
  • Regulatory frameworks – new legislation may be needed for new technology to justify ongoing investment.

The ITC is an independent research charity that focuses on improving policy on UK transport, land use and planning.

Transport for Greater Manchester to expand its dedicated freight team

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is planning to expand its dedicated freight team to help the city achieve its regional growth plans.

Speaking to, head of logistics, environment and active travel Helen Smith (pictured), said the logistics sector remains an important focus for TfGM and it was looking to build a team to deliver the region’s new freight strategy, approved last summer.

She said: “Issues relating to logistics are a key corporate priority for TfGM. We are passionate about supporting sustainable economic growth across Greater Manchester, and the role of logistics is critical to this ambition.”

Two new roles, an intervention officer and a reporting and governance officer, have been created to work alongside Smith and the freight programme’s senior manager Richard Banks.

“We know that to successfully deliver on our strategy, we need to engage effectively with the business community,” said Banks.

“The new roles will help us to develop interventions in a wide range of areas, including technology, consolidation and last-mile issues such as increasing options for loading and unloading”.

Applications for the two posts must be submitted by 7 June.

TfGM’s freight programme saw the launch last year of a new forum open to operators and logistics stakeholders last year, with the subsequent creation of a series of working groups to tackle key challenges.

Swedish out-of-hours delivery trial removes HGVs from rush-hour

A freight trial in the Swedish city of Stockholm has identified both business and environmental benefits from the use of out-of-hours delivery patterns.

The Off Peak City Distribution trial, led by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, saw two trucks receive an exemption to the current night-time delivery ban in place from 10pm to 6am in Stockholm.

Researchers wanted to see if lifting the ban would drive operational efficiency for hauliers and businesses receiving their goods, as well as congestion-busting and air quality benefits from removing freight vehicles from rush-hour.

The trial

Volvo supplied a parallel hybrid (diesel-electric) FE model fitted with a geofencing device that enabled the truck to switch to quiet, clean electric operation within urban areas.

This was used for dedicated deliveries for supermarket Lidl, travelling 30km between its warehouse in Roserberg and three city centre stores in Stockholm.

A second HGV, a biogas-fuelled Scania R480 (pictured below), was used to transport consolidated goods for Swedish foodservice supplier Martin and Servera to a number of city centre hotels and restaurants.

Both were fitted with noise-reduction equipment, such as silent roll cages, and noise sensor technology.

Anna Pernestål Brenden, a researcher at KTH’s Integrated Transport Research Laboratory, said ordinarily the Lidl warehouse would deploy several fully-loaded trucks to make deliveries during peak morning rush hours between 6am and 8am, because it was too difficult for a single vehicle to make all the drops in such a short time window.

But in the study, a single truck delivered goods to three stores in central Stockholm between the prohibited hours of 10pm and 6am. It would return to the warehouse three times in the night to be reloaded, and then make its subsequent delivery.

Pernestål Brenden said. “That’s one truck doing the work of three, or in other words – morning commuters are spared having to share the road with three heavy duty trucks.”

The truck on the dedicated Lidl route was found to have a driving speed in off-peak around one-third faster than in the morning peak (31%).

Meanwhile, the Scania working to deliver to multiple city centre hotels and restaurants, was found to have a driving speed 59% higher than in the afternoon peak, as the routes could be planned more efficiently as they did not have to factor in congestion.

Enjoy the silence

On the noise pollution front, the trial wanted to examine whether deliveries were a nuisance to residents.
Drivers all had to follow special rules to ensure the quietest of night-time deliveries, such as no reversing alarms and no talking on mobile phones outside the vehicles.

“It turned out that the noise people complained about was caused mainly by unloading the truck, not driving,” Pernestål Brenden said.

KTH acoustics researchers created a sound recording system that placed microphones in the front and back of the truck.

The front microphones would record when the truck was getting unloaded, so that neighbourhood background noise could also be taken into account.

This allowed researchers to evaluate the mix of sound from both vehicle and environment and give a true picture of what difference the unloading of the vehicle actually made.

They found trucks unloading within city centre environments were not noticeable to residents, with only those in one quieter, outer suburb experiencing noise disruption.

Though it was a small scale study, KTH said there was a strong indication that scaling up off-peak deliveries could increase efficiency for businesses, reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and make a positive impact on traffic volume during peak hours.

Pernestål Brenden said: “By making small changes, we can improve transport efficiency, reduce congestion, and enable new business models for goods receivers.”