Spark EV uses artificial intelligence to remove electric vehicle range anxiety for fleets

A new telematics system has been developed to boost fleet utilisation and remove range anxiety for transport managers running electric vehicles (EVs).

Spark EV uses artificial-intelligence-based journey prediction software, which it claims will enable electric vehicles to complete up to 20% more journeys between charges.

This equates to an extra 2.8 journeys per day for the average fleet, according to the Cambridge-based technology firm.

Combining sensors, cloud-based machine-learning and a smartphone app, Spark EV analyses live driver, vehicle and other data sources (such as the weather and congestion). An AI algorithm is then applied to increase the accuracy of journey predictions for EVs.

Using machine learning, Spark EV automatically updates predictions after each journey, continually improving efficiency.

Drivers and fleet managers enter their journey through the Spark EV app, website, or via their existing fleet management software. It then advises whether they will be able to complete it, based on live data, previous trips and chargepoint locations.

Spark EV says this reassures fleet managers and drivers that they will be able to schedule and complete jobs without running out of charge.

It also allows managers to add extra journeys or drop-offs to EV routes, based on their remaining capacity.

“Fleet managers understand that the future increasingly revolves around electric vehicles, due to new legislation coming into force around the world, a move away from diesel and rapid growth in EV sales,” said Justin Ott, CEO, Spark EV Technology.

“However, existing methods of predicting range between charges are not accurate enough for fleet use, leading to range anxiety and a consequent drop in productivity as managers cut back the number of journeys to avoid potentially running out of power.”

Ott believes that more accurate predictions will drive greater efficiencies for businesses, while enabling them to meet tightening emissions legislation.

Spark EV is paid for via monthly subscription and can be integrated with existing fleet management and scheduling systems, or used as a standalone option for smaller fleets.

The company said it is already receiving strong interest from Scandinavia, where EV penetration is currently ahead of the UK.


Big data will improve urban deliveries, says Microlise

Big data can improve driver and operational safety, Microlise told delegates at Freight in the City 2017, after a trial with Innovate UK captured seven billion truck miles of information.

Matt Hague, executive director – product strategy, at Microlise, said: “There is a lot of technology on the vehicle now that can help you manage risk. That’s everything from tracking, to cameras, and increasingly artificial intelligence. There is a lot of information out there to help you manage risk and manage your fleet more safely.”

Microlise has been working with Innovate UK, generating seven billion miles of truck data from throughout the UK – and has been merging it with external data sources, such as weather, traffic, and mapping.

Hague said that with the data pool growing all of the time, the information generated in the trial would allow local authorities to map to start making some planning decisions – as well as allowing operators to make smart decisions about deliveries.

“Using all of that data [HGV drivers] are generating, you can automatically understand how risky that route is. Then you make the decision on who is driving that route, a subbie or a member of staff, or do you de-route?

“It’s also about giving the driver real-time feedback when you approach those hazards – low bridges, areas where there have been cycle accidents.. but also areas of speeding, or harsh braking zones. Then you can figure out your hot-spots,” he said.

Hague said that utilising big data as part of the driving experience, warning drivers of potential hazards ahead, the plan is not to overwhelm the driver with data, but “give the driver a warning that they are about to hit a bridge – or warn them of impending risk”.

“The other reason we did this is that autonomous vehicles are going to happen. Lots of questions around that: Can our infrastructure support it? Is it safe? When the vehicle supports more and more what the driver is doing, the amount of data can only grow and grow,” he said.

“This project was about strategic planning, tactical planning and giving that information in real-time, at the right level.”

Microlise: ‘Big data can help freight sector boost road safety in urban areas’

The freight sector is on the verge of harnessing the power of big data to boost the safety and efficiency of their fleet movements in urban areas, according to telematics firm Microlise.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at next week’s Freight in the City Expo in London, Matthew Hague, executive director of product strategy, said: “We will see big data being used by transport service providers in our towns and cities within months, using it to improve the efficiency and safety of freight vehicle movements.”

He added: “Operators will gain the ability to accurately predict risk based on time of day and conditions, enabling street by street profiling.

“It will enable transport service providers to limit risk, thereby potentially reducing insurance costs and disruption to fleets and drivers.”

Microlise has been exploring the capabilities of using big data in fleet technology through a series of research projects over the past two years, supported by government funding.

The company already captures several billion miles worth of road data each year, however it said putting this vast amount of information to good use can be the challenging part.

“How to glean useful information from an ocean of data is a challenge, but new technologies and techniques are enabling us to scale up and process large data sets in a quick and agile way,” said Hague.

One of Microlise’s Innovate UK-funded projects, in partnership with the University of Nottingham, was to achieve customer and market value from high volumes of complex data generated through real-time telematics.

This has now been completed and Microlise said it will soon be in a position to incorporate this research into new products designed for the freight sector.

Proposals to modernise London Lorry Control Scheme given go-ahead

Proposals to revamp the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) have been given the go-ahead by London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee (TEC).

The LLCS controls the routes that HGVs over 18 tonnes can use at night and at weekends and has been in place since 1985 to help reduce noise pollution in residential areas during the night.

However, the freight sector has long been calling for a review of the 32-year-old scheme to take into account modern, quieter HGV technology and the challenges operators face in delivering during limited hours.

A full-scale review began late last year, with a series of recommendations drawn up to modernise the scheme, which were approved last week (15 June) at a TEC hearing.

These include exploring the development of a noise standard for lorries, special permission for the “quietest fleets” to deliver overnight, and a review of the operational hours and routes (see box below for key recommendations).

London Councils’ TEC chairman Julian Bell said: “The London Lorry Control Scheme has played an important role in reducing the impact of freight movements on the lives of Londoners for over 30 years.

“The review’s findings will help us ensure the freight industry can meet the challenges it faces while continuing to help Londoners get a good nights’ sleep.”

The FTA has welcomed the acceptance of the proposals as a “positive sign” the scheme is to be modernised for the first time in three decades.

Natalie Chapman, head of policy for London, South-East and East of England, acknowledged the “massive amount of work” undertaken by London Councils during the review process.

However, she’d like to see significant proposals, such as route reviews and pilots for amended operational hours, addressed sooner than planned by London Councils.

Major changes to the LLCS would likely need further public consultations and changes to traffic management orders in boroughs.

“It is frustrating, but it is the political reality,” said Chapman. “We will continue to meet quarterly to work with London Councils to make sure all the things in the document do happen.

“Some of it may take a while, but we’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

The RHA criticised the review for failing to address the freight sector’s challenges.

RHA deputy policy director Duncan Buchanan said: “It is not acceptable that the hours of operation of the scheme and the extent of the core network that is available for use have been put in the long grass by this report.

“The report does acknowledge that the freight industry raised concerns about the road network and hours of control, but these issues have been side-lined and no action will be taken on these for at least 18 months – if ever.”

During 2015/16, 4,314 operators and 679 drivers were fined for breaching the LLCS.

Key recommendations of the LLCS review:

  • Raise awareness of the scheme’s purpose, benefits and rules among key stakeholders such as the freight industry, London boroughs, residents’ groups, businesses and international freight organisations. This will involve updating the scheme’s website and online portal, as well as exploring new technologies to make it easier for freight operators to plan and follow compliant routes.
  • Develop “noise standards” for vehicle and infrastructure design that properly reflect how existing and new technologies could improve the operation of the scheme and the restrictions that apply to vehicles.
  • Trial the use of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) enforcement to improve compliance.
  • Reassess the scheme’s restrictions, such as routes, hours of control, the weight limit, traffic signs and vehicle exemptions, particularly in line with the advancements in vehicle design and serving the needs and demands of London’s growing 24/7 economy.
  • Update online systems and processes to improve the day-to-day administration of the scheme.
  • A range of stakeholders, including those representing businesses, London residents, freight operators, London boroughs, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority, have been involved in the review and have helped to identify a number of areas for possible changes and improvements to the scheme.


Freight vehicle restrictions proposed in Oxford Street transformation vision

Freight vehicles could be removed or time-restricted from London’s Oxford Street, as plans for a major revamp of one of the world’s busiest shopping destinations take shape.

TfL has opened a consultation this week into proposals to make Oxford Street area more pedestrian-friendly and tackle air quality and safety concerns from over-crowding.

This requires a “significant increase in the amount of space provided for pedestrians and a radical reduction in the amount of traffic using Oxford Street,” according to the consultation.

As an established retail and business hub, TfL said it is “extremely important” that businesses based on Oxford Street can receive deliveries and be serviced efficiently.

“At the same time we recognise the importance of ensuring that local residents are protected from excessive noise, pollution and congestion. Any proposals must ensure that freight and servicing vehicles are able to continue to access the Oxford Street district efficiently,” the consultation added.

At present, Oxford Street is open for freight deliveries at any time, with the majority being made between 22.00 and 10.00. Some businesses on Oxford Street already have arrangements in place to make or take deliveries via nearby side roads or to loading facilities at the rear.

Possible changes

However, if the current status quo is maintained, planners say it would “greatly limit” their ability to transform the area.

They say removing access for freight entirely would increase the scope for transformation; however they acknowledge this may have implications for businesses or traffic flow in neighbouring areas.

Restricting freight vehicles during the day-time is another option, with night-time access either to the full length of Oxford Street or to certain sections of it.

This option would give pedestrians more space, however would require businesses to re-time the receiving of their goods.

“We will continue to work with businesses to find new ways of improving the efficiency of deliveries and servicing, while reducing the impact of these journeys on those visiting, living or working in the Oxford Street district,” the consultation document said.

It added that successful consolidation schemes had already reduced freight and servicing journeys in both Regent Street and Bond Street,

If freight vehicles were banned from Oxford Street, planners would consider the potential for designated crossing points to enable vehicles to head north to south and vice versa.


TfL said air quality in Oxford Street is a “serious and pressing” issue, regularly exceeding legal limits, despite a boost in low-emissions buses and taxis and existing freight consolidation and re-timing work.

Road safety is also a “significant concern”, with around 60 collisions a year on Oxford Street resulting in personal injury.

Options for restricting or rerouting buses, taxis and cyclists are also included in the early proposals.

TfL is keen to hear industry views on the project and the consultation will be open until 18 June.


Virtual loading bays aim to reduce PCNs and boost uptake of cleaner freight vehicles

A virtual loading bay that allows operators to pay for a timeslot to load/unload on restricted kerb space is to be trialled in London this summer.

The Kerb Virtual Parking System (VPS) is one of a series of projects aimed at improving the transport, energy and infrastructure of cities as part of Innovate UK’s £19m First of a Kind Deployment competition.

Grid Smarter Cities, which designed the website, said the system will allow drivers to park closely to their delivery point without causing congestion or running the risk of receiving a penalty charge notice (PCN).

Local authorities will decide the fee and which locations are to be used. These can be vehicle- and time-specific to  help nudge behaviour into off-peak periods and to prioritise low-emission vehicles, for example.

This can help local authorities manage poor air quality hotspots, incentivise the use of cleaner delivery vehicles, and improve traffic flow across the borough.

Cost benefits

Grid Smarter Cities added that Kerb VPS will slash costs associated with administering and receiving PCNs for both councils and operators, as well as reduce fuel through more optimised deliveries and better multi-drop planning capability.

Other benefits include bookable rapid chargers in reserved bays and access to previously difficult-to-reach locations.

“There is overwhelming support for such a solution with significant environmental and economic benefits for commercial vehicle operators and local authorities in the adoption of the solution in comparison with the existing regime of PCNs for illegal parking, which is currently ‘stick with no carrot’,” the Innovate UK project proposal stated.

Grid Smarter Cities will be running the trial towards the end of summer, which is anticipated to take place on the TLRN and in Wandsworth, focusing on high-density loading ‘hotspots’.

Deliveries to car boots

Another delivery idea being trialled under the Innovate scheme is the ‘Car as a Delivery Service’ concept for urban last-mile deliveries.

Car Tap uses a smartphone app to enable consumers to have online goods delivered straight to their car boot using secure keyless vehicle access technology.

This system aims to reduce wasted mileage of redeliveries, but also spread deliveries around the clock to lessen the demand on roads during peak times.

A trial will take place to allow 100 customers of Farmaround to receive deliveries of organic boxes.

ITM Power has also received funding from Innovate to convert electricity to hydrogen at a mass scale to make it more affordable as fuel, while Zapinamo will extend its trials of its rapid and mobile charging for electric vehicles.

UPS: The big data revolution will drive logistics efficiency

Rapid advancements in data capability will be a core driver of innovation across the urban logistics sector, delegates to Freight in the City Spring Summit heard yesterday.

“If there’s one thing that’s really driving the opportunity for our industry to march forward in terms of its efficiency capabilities today, it’s the big data revolution,” said Peter Harris, director of sustainability for Europe at UPS.

“The opportunity for technology to enable us to crunch data in a way that wasn’t available just a few years ago,” Harris added.

UPS has been using its Orion (On-Road Integrated Optimisation and Navigation) system since 2014 across its US operation to analyse delivery drivers’ daily multi-stops and optimise the best route to take.

The system has enabled the parcel operator to reduce each driver’s average distance by seven miles per day.

Across the whole of the US driver-force, this has reduced annual journeys by 100 million miles, slashed 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2, and saved 10 million gallons of fuel.

Rolling laboratory

UPS has also been using its scale to enable it to take the lead in trialling the latest vehicle technology and fuels on the market.

Its “rolling laboratory” of more than 8,000 alternative fuel lorries and vans have now travelled more than one billion miles worldwide.

This has enabled the parcel firm to map the technologies it feels are most suited to each of its operations, focusing on duty-specific application of individual fuels.

Its Alternative Technology Vision is a strategy for each of its urban operations, ranging from city-to-hub feeder routes using biomethane trucks, through to a truck-free future in the densest urban areas.

In these central-most zones, the parcel firm revealed a plan to expand out the successful urban logistics model in place across Hamburg.



Last chance to book your free place at Freight in the City Spring Summit

Freight in the City Spring Summit is now only a few days away and promises to be a must-attend networking opportunity for anybody interested in improving last-mile deliveries in towns and cities.

More than 500 visitors from across the public and private sector have signed up to attend the one-day conference and exhibition on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

Speakers from the UK and mainland Europe will be leading the debate on better ways to handle urban deliveries, while the exhibition will bring you the very latest vehicles, equipment and services for city fleets.

Doors open at 8.15, with a delicious bacon or egg roll waiting for you courtesy of Mercedes-Benz and Fuso Trucks UK, so make sure you get there early to look around the exhibition.

Freight in the City Spring Summit ‘Improving the last mile’ is supported by the Urban Transport Group, Transport for West Midlands, Mercedes-Benz and Fuso Trucks UK.

There is still time to reserve your free place to attend, so make sure you do so today, and we’ll look forward to welcoming you next week!




Greater Manchester and Transport for the North invite operators to freight forum

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is inviting operators to come along to its second Logistics Forum on 7 March to address the challenges and opportunities for the freight sector across the region.

The event will bring together key speakers from TfGM and the freight sector, as well as three workshops in the afternoon focusing on: vehicles; urban deliveries; and consolidation.

Helen Smith, head of logistics, environment and active travel at TfGM, said: “It’s very important to us that the forum is a partnership between the public and private sectors, working together to identify challenges and put into practice solutions to support the environmental, social and economic ambitions of the city region.

“The March summit will focus on highways projects, consolidation, alternative fuels and the implications of a possible low-emission zone for freight in the region.”

She added that the afternoon workshops would consider ways to best support the forum’s activities and will help develop pilots and case studies for sustainable freight and logistics practices, “which are scalable and give tangible results”.

“It’s intended that the Forum is a channel for collaboration, consultation and sharing of best practice, and we hope that it will in time be recognised as a significant voice for the industry in Greater Manchester.”

Directly after the logistics forum, there will also be the opportunity to take part in a workshop run by Transport for the North (TfN), which aims to garner operator feedback for its Strategic Transport Plan (STP) under development.

TfN wants to enable an open discussion to ensure the needs of the freight and logistics sector are met by the STP proposals.

The events both take place on 7 March at Innside, 1 First Street, Manchester, M15 4RP.

TfGM’s forum will run from 09.30am to 2.30pm (including lunch), with the TfN workshop held from 2.30pm – 4.00pm at the same venue.

To find out more about the speakers and register, email:



Urban Transport Group urges DfT to take a more ‘ambitious’ approach to freight strategy

The Urban Transport Group (UTG) has urged the government to take a more “ambitious, open and forward-thinking” approach to freight strategy.

Speaking to ahead of next month’s Spring Summit in Birmingham, MD Jonathan Bray said the DfT had left a “big hole” where freight strategy should be, with more work needed to address this issue.

He added. “Historically, it’s tended to be about responding to short-term issues and working closely with existing freight lobbies.

“With a lot of the interesting things happening on freight, the DfT is a bit of a bystander really.

“I think the DfT needs to take a more ambitious, open and forward-thinking strategic approach to freight.”

UTG has been working with cities to help address this lack of national focus, so they can see the benefits from working freight into their strategic transport plans.

It has undertaking research into the challenges from increasing levels of urban deliveries, and highlighted actions they could take to mitigate the impact in its report Delivering the Future.

“We’ve tried to make the freight debate more accessible to decision-makers in cities. I think the freight debate has a tendency to be locked into a lot of detail and long lists of issues,” said Bray.

“Senior decision-makers only have so much bandwidth. They want the simple way forward, not just a list of 120 problems.”

UTG suggests a formula that can be adopted in any city: transport more long-haul freight into the sub-regions by rail or water – although not ignoring the capacity constraints for modal switch – while ensuring last-mile deliveries have as little impact as possible on the urban environment.

Living cities

Cities are also increasingly setting transport strategies in response to the ‘place-making’ agenda, said Bray: people wanting places for people, with less space for vehicles, no matter what their purpose.

Far more emphasis is being placed on the urban realm and more value is being placed on city centres, all of which is exacerbated by a need to address air quality issues.

“I think the air quality imperative will get more acute with the third version of the government’s air quality strategy. I suspect it may be a more serious piece of work than the previous two,” added Bray.

“What’s happening as well is that the rest of the available road space is being squeezed and all the lobbies want their space: the active travel lobby – cycling isn’t going away and nor should it; the bus lobby is very vigorous in wanting their bus lanes; and freight and logistics need space to deliver.”

“The squeeze is on roads capacity,” warned Bray and a wider debate needed about future streets, which bring together both place-making and urban transport planners.

Embracing change

He wants to encourage the freight and logistics sector to become more engaged in the vision for future cities and the wider service agenda, as there could be plenty of opportunities for operators.

“The freight and logistics sector is very quick to take on new tech and innovation, but when people are talking about smart cities, they are thinking about apps and Uber and start-ups,” said Bray.

“The freight sector is naturally very preoccupied with logistical operations, but I think it could also present itself as a partner in the move towards smarter cities in some of these initiatives.”

A little history

UTG brings together Britain’s largest metropolitan transport authorities under one organisation to address both passenger and freight movements.

Members include the likes of Transport for West Midlands, Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for London (TfL).

Historically, the work undertaken by UTG – formerly known as the Passenger Transport Executive Group until January 2016 – had predominantly focused on passenger travel.

However, as more and more cities began to move towards combined authorities, UTG realised a more holistic approach to all modes of travel, including freight, was needed and a name change.


At the same time that UTG shifted its focus, TfL came on board as a full member and brought with it “a huge amount of expertise”.

“They are one of the most admired transport authorities in the world right now. Certainly when I speak to people in other parts of the world they always speak very highly of London.

UTG takes a specific approach to its coverage of freight, looking to ensure it is included in the wider debate about what is happening to transport in cities.

Bray says that for too long freight has remained at the edges of transport planning debate, and its inclusion in city-wide strategies is long overdue.

“And I think that we’ve come a long way in a short space of time to mainstreaming freight within cities’ transport debates. It’s no longer kept at the margins as a fringe topic,” he adds.

UTG enables cities to share best practice and learn from other regions about the best ways to address urban freight deliveries.

“We offer cities the opportunity to work together and piggyback off existing research rather than have to do it all again themselves,” says Bray.