The rise in e-commerce was already a major trend before Covid-19 rearranged our lives. Now it has been turbo-charged. Physical retail will still have a place in the urban landscape. But for many people in many circumstances, online shopping is going to become the dominant retail mode.
However, we do need to recognise that the rise in vans used to deliver all those lovely parcels is problematic. Parcel delivery vans, which are overwhelmingly diesel fuelled, are the fastest growing traffic segment in the UK. They have seen a 70% increase in road miles between 1997 and 2017, compared to 12% growth for cars in the same period. Even pre-Covid e-commerce parcel volumes were growing at approximately 9% per year, a figure which has doubtless increased in 2020.
Replacing these polluting vehicles with zero-emission alternatives is a priority if the UK is to hit its carbon emission reduction targets and clean up its dirty air.
To achieve this, we need to prove to van operators that there is a valid business case for switching to other delivery mechanisms, in particular, e-cargo bikes. They are surprisingly capable as delivery vehicles, can carry up to 250kg payload and there is significant growth potential.
However, to tap into this potential, we need to provide businesses and consumers with the data they need to make informed choices. We also need to identify the infrastructure needs for e-cargo bikes (charging, storage, facilitation warehouses etc).
That is why we will soon be launching CleanCar.go. It will be a comprehensive data and analysis tool to help van operators see the benefits of e-cargo-bikes. It will also help local transport authorities to ensure that this modal shift is part of a strategic, integrated and data-driven urban transport sustainability plan.
Our aim is to become the go-to portal for dependable data and analysis on the suitability, economics and environmental impact of the shift to e-mobility. We know that ICE cars and vans will be phased out in the coming decade or so. We want to help people and businesses make sound choices for their new clean mobility vehicles.