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How home deliveries are fighting to retain their green crown

David Jinks MILT (pictured)
Head of Consumer Research, Parcelhero
How home deliveries are fighting to retain their green crown
A definitive 2009 report found home deliveries produced significantly less CO2 emissions than shopping by car. But with increasing concern about the impact of NOx and particulates, can home deliveries still claim to be the greenest option? A new study from ParcelHero examines the latest moves to ensure home deliveries retain their green crown.

To mark the Government’s Green GB Week a new study has been launched asking whether home deliveries still carry the crown as the greenest form of shopping.

The timely study, by the parcel price comparison site ParcelHero, reveals that, though home deliveries create significantly less CO2 emissions than traditional shopping trips; more work needs to be done to reduce other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide (NOx). It’s a challenge that has retailers and couriers looking to innovative new technologies to retain their green crown.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says ‘For some years after the emergence of e-commerce the debate raged whether home deliveries or traditional shopping trips by car were greener. A 2009 academic report by Professor Alan McKinnon and his team at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh finally seemed to settle the matter, finding a dedicated car trip for a specific item generated 4,274 grammes of CO2 per kilometre, but a successful first-time delivery created just 181 grammes of CO2 per km per parcel. In fact, the research found that a customer shopping by car would have to buy 24 non-food items to reduce their equivalent emissions to those of a home delivery.’

However, ParcelHero’s new study – How will home deliveries retain the green crown? - reveals fast-growing concerns about nitrogen oxide and particulates emissions have moved the home delivery debate on; and that retailers and couriers are now racing to introduce significant new innovations to keep their crown as the greenest form of retail.

Reveals David: ‘NOx impacts on respiratory conditions, high levels cause causing inflammation of the airways. As long ago as 2012 campaigners were arguing that NOx should be considered as being just as important as CO2 emissions. Then came ‘Dieselgate’, the revelation that some VW Group vehicles allegedly emit up to 40 times more NOx in real-world driving than in laboratory tests, which bought the issue to the forefront of public attention.’

Explains David: ‘The latest Euro 6 diesel vans have now cut Nitrogen oxide by 55% from 180mg/km to just 80mg/km. (In contrast, the NOx limit for petrol engines has not been altered from the previous Euro 5 standards). And they also cut down emissions of Sulphur oxide, Carbon monoxide, Hydrocarbon and diesel particulate. However, many of the best-known names in deliveries are actually ahead of the curve in planning to ditch the diesel in urban areas: Royal Mail is introducing a significant fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) from Peugeot and Banbury-based Arrival; and UPS has also ordered 35 of the ultra-lightweight Arrival EVs. It has just fitted its central London depot with extensive new recharging facilities ready for a significant boost to its electric fleet.’

The study reveals Hermes is already running a fleet of 32 EVs in Central London and is considering a large scale roll out of such vehicles in cities throughout the UK; while DHL is not only building its own electric vans but is also now emerging as EV supplier for other companies. Its StreetScooter range is expanding from producing mainly for DHL’s own fleet to now selling EVs to other logistics companies.

But the new study also shows some couriers and retailers are also now looking back to the future and returning to pedal power to solve some of the challenges of greening the final mile. Says David: ‘DHL has new cargo bikes in cities across the Europe, and innovative companies such as Zedify supply pedal-powered bike and trike delivery services for many local retailers in several cities across the UK. Meanwhile Sainsbury's is trialling a new fleet of electric grocery delivery bikes in south London. And this is one spoke in a whole new hub; the Government has just pledged £2m in funding for e-cargo bikes grants.’

Continues David: ‘At the other end of the scale from the humble bike, our study shows how electric autonomous droids and drones are making their first deliveries. For example, Starship Technologies’ robot vehicles are being trialled in Greenwich and with the Co-op in Milton Keynes to deliver groceries there. It is planned 1,000 of these robot vehicles will enter service if trials are successful.’

Other innovative technologies are emerging that may sound as if they are pure sci-fi, but the reality is a lot closer than you might think, ParcelHero’s study says city courier advances will include deliveries straight to your car boot – Audi and Volvo are already working on schemes with DHL and Amazon. And there will even be deliveries to your kitchen…when you’re out. Smart doorbell entry is an idea that’s clearly chimed with Amazon, and in the UK Waitrose is already trialling these ‘in-home deliveries’ in South London.

Finally, Amazon has even patented flying distribution centres that can be taken wherever they are needed, and vans that produce 3D printed items while on route to your home. Concludes David: ‘Whatever their final evolution, our study finds home deliveries will continue to be a greener option than traditional shopping trips in the family car, as technology evolves and delivery choices grow ever wider.’

Don’t miss the full study into how home deliveries will retain their mantle as the greenest form of retail at

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