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London’s ULEZ expansion: an opportunity for cleaner deliveries?


On Tuesday [29 August 2023], the boundary of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was extended to encompass the whole of Greater London – covering all roads within the M25. This will have a huge impact on delivery firms operating in the capital, but some see it as reason to switch to a sustainable fleet.

Nicholas De Juniac, UK general manager, Zoomo, explained: “We continue to see a complex debate centred around the environment versus the economy in relation to London’s expanded ULEZ. It is a tricky conversation, pulled in both directions by growing fears of climate disaster and recessionary pressures. In many ways the government’s decision to prioritise our environment by expanding ULEZ has been difficult for businesses to comprehend. But the reality is, we don’t need to choose between environment and economy.

“In fact, the expansion of the ULEZ is an opportunity for businesses to embrace environmentally friendly vehicles and save money simultaneously.

“A Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) represents a crucial part of the solution from an environmental perspective. With their lightweight design and electric motor, LEVs require less energy, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint. Additionally, their compact size helps alleviate physical congestion on busy city streets, contributing to improved traffic flow and a more sustainable urban environment.

“At first glance, the upfront costs of adopting LEVs might seem daunting, especially given that second hand ICE vans can often be bought for much cheaper. However the low purchase price of second hand ICE vehicles hides many ongoing costs that make LEVs much more competitive.

“Government policies, such as scrappage schemes and incentives, can help bring down these initial costs for LEVs and make the transition more affordable for businesses. What’s more, the ongoing operational expenses of LEVs are significantly lower than those of conventional vehicles.”

Christina Calderato, Transport for London’s director of transport strategy and policy, added: “TfL and the Mayor of London have expanded eligibility for the UK’s largest ever scrappage scheme worth £160m in order to support all Londoners and the capital’s smaller businesses, sole traders and charities in replacing their older, more polluting vehicles with greener options.

“We are happy to see that thousands of London’s small and micro businesses have applied to scrap or retrofit their vans thereby playing their part in cleaning London’s toxic air. We hope many more of the capital’s smaller businesses will use this opportunity to make the transition to cleaner vehicles as they make deliveries across the city.

“London has made significant progress over the last six years in improving air quality, but it sadly remains the case that thousands of Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of toxic pollution.

“The London-wide ULEZ is vital in tackling the triple challenges of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion, and will help millions more people breathe cleaner air.”

Stuart Higgins, partner at independent management consulting firm BearingPoint, stressed: “Unless your current diesel van is more than seven years old, you have nothing to fear from the expansion of the ULEZ zone.

“This will be especially true for major delivery firms and parcel carriers, whose vehicle replacement cycles will mean that few, if any, of the existing fleet are under seven years old.

“Those that may suffer include the growing contingent of independent drivers, largely servicing Amazon deliveries or acting as independent local delivery drivers for last mile delivery into rural locations on behalf of the major parcel carriers such as DPD or Yodel – so called Local Couriers. Those operators will, I’m afraid, have a stark decision to make come August 29th this year; either pay £12.50 per day for travel inside the ULEZ zone, or buy a diesel van less than seven years old or a petrol van less than 17 years old.”

Jack Green, ex-Deliveroo and co-founder of eco-friendly instant delivery start-up Bodo, noted: “ULEZ expansion supports our commitment to sustainable ecommerce delivery. Our 100% electric fleets are prepared for a greener and cleaner London.”

However, supply chain software firm e2open has raised concerns regarding the increased demand for electric vehicles (EVs).

“Automakers will be under increasing pressure to produce vehicles at speed. Despite big players like Jaguar Land Rover already devoting entire sites to building EVs in the UK, manufacturers continue to deal with the complexity of new vehicle requirements and ongoing global shortages,” said Mike Hitmar, director at e2open.

“As cars get smarter and more electrified, automotive supply chains can follow suit to mitigate the risk of stalling on the industry’s recent growth. A multi-tiered, connected supply chain and supporting technology that brings data together in one platform will help businesses to forecast potential disruption and take proactive action.This visibility will feed into inventory optimisation, where leaders can create aligned plans and make the best adjustment decisions in real-time.

“Ultimately, short-term fixes need to be combined with longer-term planning, allowing automotive leaders to effectively balance suppliers and future-proof their supply chain.”

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