News & Events

January 2023

Enabling the use of electric service vehicles in logistics

In this article, we take a look at what technology is needed to deliver EVs across the UK logistics sector and how the industrial sector can support its transition.

What is the current EV outlook for larger vehicles in the UK?

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, there are approximately 750,000 electric vehicles of all types on the roads in the UK including over 25.000 EV vans and 300 trucks.

The number of electric vehicle (EV) service vehicles deployed within the UK fleet is growing steadily but that growth is not proportionate across all vehicle sizes and weight ranges.

Transition levels within the van fleet (less than 3.5 tonnes) is where market penetration is greatest but at the heavy haulage end of the spectrum, examples are limited to demonstration and test projects such as one run by Tesco in South Wales.

This means UK warehouses are adopting electric charging capabilities at different rates and timescales, and we are yet to see a development where an outbound fleet, of any note, has fully transitioned to an all-electric service fleet.

Yet, Government and core stakeholders are acutely aware that meeting zero emission targets is dependent on transitioning all service vehicles to zero emission.

What needs to be achieved?

Hybrid fleets (a mix of EV / internal combustion engine and plans for hydrogen in the future) are going to be with us for some time to come and that will continue to influence the deployment rates of charging capacity to both new and existing industrial developments and logistics operations.

This infers there will be a vast exercise to retrofit the necessary charging and/or fuelling equipment and ensuring that the power supply and hydrogen supply is in the right places when it is needed.

Up to the mid-range (26 tonnes), this will most likely mean EV applications but at the heaviest HGV end the jury is still out and hydrogen fuelled applications may yet become the power train of choice. But with the HGV transition to alternative fuels running on a later timescale, transitioning the UK stock of national and regional distribution centre warehouses will be slower to gather pace.

This is noted in the recently published ‘Future of Freight – a long term plan’ policy document.  Here the Department for Transport (DfT) recognises the ‘importance of a widespread, reliable refuelling and recharging networks to provide confidence in the commercial viability of zero emission HGVs’. The response to this timing issue has been to look at different ways of coordinating political, technical and industry expertise through the DfT initiated, Freight Council.

In addition, where employment-led industrial developments with staff parking are required by planning authorities to install a quota of charging points, at present there are no planning arrangements in place to pre-prepare the operational side of logistics centres.

How can industrial developers’ future-proof their sites for the EV transition?

Smaller, urban industrial units, driven by the online revolution and focused on supporting last mile and last hour deliveries, are at the forefront of the transition to net zero freight.

Developers should be moving to 100% electric powered, offering fully equipped car and delivery van EV charging points as well as battery storage as standard specification to help occupiers and tenants transition to net zero operations.

With Amazon having announced that they are rolling out a new fleet of electric HGVs in the UK, others are likely to be following suit. We look forward to embracing the next wave of sustainable opportunity.