Inner-city logistics is often prone to a conservative mode of transport lock-in with mainly diesel-operated vans being used even if neither distance travelled nor cargo carried actually requires this type of vehicle. As a consequence, inner city logistics contribute significantly to local emissions which can be reduced by deploying e-vehicles.

This use case focusses on inner city logistics in a city-owned company with the aim to optimize maintenance and logistics routes via e-mobility solutions. It addresses benefits and barriers of e-vehicle deployment in BSR cities in terms of e.g. charging infrastructure and route optimisation, winter conditions, behaviour-related barriers to acceptance among city employees, and economic aspects of e-vehicle operations.

Demonstration action

The demonstration action involved the testing of different e-vehicle options in inner-city logistics in order to determine the most efficient solution for use by Arkea Ltd., a city-owned company in Turku, in their different logistical needs along normal work routes.

During the preparation phase, a mapping of available options of light electric vehicles (LEVs) was undertaken, as well as a thorough analysis of Arkea functions, needs and possible piloting sites. Arkea provides a wide range of maintenance, food, cleaning, and security services in the Turku city area, with 61 % of employees using mainly their own cars for work purposes.

The selected vehicles included an electric bike used for work-related travel by office employees as well as a sturdier electric 3-wheeler (cargo bike) with some storage space for utilities, used by Arkea's maintenance workers for practical on-the-job tasks ranging from garden work to regular real estate maintenance. The vehicles were leased for the demonstration period. A benefit campaign to attract e-bikers from Arkea headquarters was implemented. Both e-bikes were equipped with studded tyres, making them suitable for winter conditions.

As the office e-bike was not that popular during the winter months, testing was put on hold during that time and resumed in spring. The e-bikes were available for one-week test periods per person, allowing the users to test the bike both during the workday and during work trips.

A winter testing for various light e-vehicles (LEVs) such as scooters, ribbers, 4-wheelers and kick-bikes was organized by TUAS in cooperation with the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project. The aim was to analyze systematically how suitable and safe different types of LEVs are in winter conditions.

The detailed analysis of the Use Case included a user survey among Arkea Ltd. employees. Furthermore, the experiences and lessons learnt from the demonstration phase are assessed within the framework of a detailed feasibility study.

Results, lessons learnt and recommendations

A feasibility study for widespread electrification of inner-city logistics in Turku will evaluate the experience of the demonstration phase in Turku and include an estimation of both investment and operational costs and the potential burden on the charging infrastructure. In addition, it will deal with potential barriers and drivers to e-vehicle deployment in city logistics, including technical, organizational and behavioural issues. A vehicle optimization calculation tool will also be developed as part of the feasibility study and will support organizations in making informed choices about their future fleets.

The high potential of LEVs in replacing traditional vehicles in city logistics was clearly demonstrated based on use case results. However, the challenge and (preliminary) lessons learnt listed below indicate various issues that need to be considered when opting for such as transition:

  • Overall, Arkea staff was in favour of adding different types of e-vehicles to the fleet. However, when talking about LEVs in particular it was found that the timing of the introduction of LEVs in an organization is of great importance, particularly among people who do not normally cycle much. Introduction of LEVs should be coupled with either incentives or at least an information campaign to guarantee successful introduction. The storing requirements and safety issues related to LEVs turned out particularly important to their usability.

  • On a practical side, it should be noted that when planning for similar pilots the participating organization should have at least a minor budget. Although the cooperation with Arkea Ltd. went smoothly for the most part, there were recurring delays with e.g. data acquisition. Having invested in the pilot financially, an incentive is created to accelerate / foster the implementation, allowing for more efficient progress.

  • Usability of LEVs: the usability of the LEVs varies greatly between different types of LEV. Careful mapping of user needs and market options should be made prior to purchase. Some LEVs are not suited for winter conditions and may even prove dangerous on icy roads.

  • Organizational attitudes: unless there is a strong image benefit involved, it might be difficult to convince especially "laggard" companies to start utilizing electric vehicles in their daily functions. It should be borne in mind that the business case of LEVs and other e-vehicles is not always a good enough incentive for companies due to higher initial costs of procurement. The price of e-cars and e-vans is still in many cases almost twice the price of a diesel or petrol fuelled vehicle. When inviting for tenders for city functions and services, cities could use energy efficiency as a procurement criterion. However, it was found that this is not yet very common.

  • Individual attitudes: It proved rather difficult to commit employees to take part in the pilot despite initial eagerness. There is a strong financial incentive to use one's own car for work-related driving, which makes changing travel mode less attractive. Some practical issues may lead to unwillingness to use LEVs at the workplace, e.g. the difficulty of returning the vehicle after working hours. Weather conditions under wintertime are a prohibiting factor for many employees, especially those who do not cycle regularly.

Key recommendations are summarized in the theme-specific Action Checklists below:

Featured outputs