The German logistics giant is aiming for 70% of its deliveries to be emissions-free by 2025
Deutsche Post DHL hasn’t waited for technology to catch up to make progress in cutting carbon emissions. When no commercial electric vehicles were available for its parcel and mail delivery needs, the world’s largest logistics group, with locations in 220 countries and a workforce of 510,000, built its own.
The company realised the writing was on the wall for diesel vehicles in city centres and turned to a spin-out from the university of Aachen in Germany for its modular electric StreetScooter delivery van. DPDHL liked it so much it bought the business in 2014 and is now developing prototypes of larger vehicles.
This year some 10,000 vehicles will be made, assembled from more than 30 manufacturers’ components. The modular design makes it easy to replace damaged parts such as bumpers. And it is recyclable.
Electric competitive with diesel
“If you look across total cost of ownership we proved that electric vehicles can be competitive today with similar diesel vehicles,” asserts marketing director Marcus Arens.
In the next couple of months DPDHL will decide whether to respond to requests from other firms to sell to them. Although whether it wants the responsibilities of being a provider is another question.
E-commerce is changing DHL’s express business, so alongside the StreetScooter are bike couriers, and the latest innovation, an electric-assisted cubicycle, can take loads of up to 125kg, easily transferred between van and tricycle. It is piloting the "city hub" in Frankfurt and Utrecht. Not only is it emissions-free, but a cubicycle can make up to twice as many stops as a van in an hour.
These technologies will help DPDHL to get towards its 2025 goal of ensuring that 70% of its pick up and deliveries in the first and last miles are clean, meaning either electric (from renewables) or on foot.
That target is one means of assessing progress towards zero emissions in 2050. The group wants to increase carbon efficiency by 50% by 2025, compared to 2007 levels. Its previous target was met four years early, thanks to more efficient aircraft, moving to dual fuel LNG/diesel for its UK HGV fleet, and raising buildings standards.
By 2025, DPDHL wants to get more of its employees involved in environmental and climate protection activities. It wants them (and its business partners) to plant one million trees every year and is aiming for more than half its sales to incorporate green solutions such as carbon offsetting initiatives, and the use of more aerodynamic trailers.
The group measures and scrutinises its carbon emissions as carefully as it does its financial data, says Christof Ehrhart, executive VP for corporate communications and responsibility. DPDHL has signed up for the science-based targets initiative and is working with WWF to improve the methodology for logistics.
It is also committed to the UN’s sustainable development goals, which Ehrhart describes as "a business plan approved for the planet". In its latest CSR report, released last month, the company said its group-wide programmes would focus on quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), climate action (SDG 13) and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). It has also created a tool showing how its products and services are addressing sustainable development issues worldwide.
This article is part of our sustainable transport briefing. See also:
DPDHL logistics transport emissions