Urban mobility Smart mobility
Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Impact of low emission zones

Dr Yanying Li, Head of Programmes and Knowledge Management at ALICE, the Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe, tells Intertraffic about the impact Low Emissions Zones have on smart urban mobility goals.

A zero-emission zone is an area where only zero-emission vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists are granted unrestricted access. In March 2020, the city of London launched a zero-emission zone pilot covering one 360-metre long street, aiming to improve air quality and encourage walking, cycling and use of zero-emission vehicles. Differing from the famous, world-first congestion charge scheme in London, the scheme applies to all types of vehicles, and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since then another 35 cities from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have announced their plans to implement zero-emission zones.

Considering that freight transport is one of the greatest contributions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the road transport sector, and the biggest air polluter by using diesel-powered vehicles, cities are attempting to achieve their climate ambitions, improve local air quality, and advance use of zero-emission vehicles for freight transport through implementation of zero-emission zones. The Dutch National Climate Agreement requires the logistics sector to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, for example. One of the recommended tools is the implementation of zero-emission zones for freight in the country’s 30-40 largest cities. Together with the plan of the implementation of zero-emission zones, the Netherlands has also developed nationally harmonized principles for zero-emission freight including phasing out existing fossil-fuel commercial vehicles and replacing them with zero-emission vans and trucks. The government offers tax incentives and subsidies between 2021 and 2025 to help the logistics sector’s transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Together with the plan of the implementation of zero-emission zones, the Netherlands has also developed nationally harmonized principles for zero-emission freight including phasing out existing fossil-fuel commercial vehicles and replacing them with zero-emission vans and trucks

the search for a magix formula

While city authorities and national governments are cheering for the almost ‘magic’ policy instrument that can solve many of their problems, logistics operators and businesses often still have deep concerns. Similar to many good-willed policies, the zero-emission zones come with pitfalls too. Urban logistics covers food deliveries, e-commerce deliveries (B2C), deliveries to small retail shops (B2B), transport of construction materials and waste collection. Therefore, urban logistics operations consist of complex distribution networks and a multitude of actors (e.g. transport operators, logistics hub operators, users) with a variety of ownership and control of commercial fleets, as well varying types of contracts with workers.

Local authorities should not overlook any potential negative impacts on the logistics sector, local businesses and communities. Policy makers are likely aware that implementation of zero-emission zones requires participation of and engagement with the local community and the private sector. Stakeholders to be considered in this context are complex, ranging from global logistics operators, the local post office, global brands and from small independent shops to local citizens. They all have their different needs and their resources as well their attitudes towards zero-emission zones vary. Big players can simply withdraw from the market or change their operation locations, while small and local business will have to rely on their limited resources to adapt to any changes caused by zero-emission zones.

Policy makers are likely aware that implementation of zero-emission zones requires participation of and engagement with the local community and the private sector

However, small business has more flexibility than big players who would need a minimum of 2 years to make any changes in their operation, and they also cannot develop a specific solution for just one city. Big players therefore call for a more harmonised approach to implementing zero-emission zones, if not at EU level, at least at national or regional level, even though implementation of zero-emission zone is under local authorities’ hands.

unemployment isn't working

The impact on the workforce should also be taken into consideration as the logistics sector is one of few that provides job opportunities to local, low-skilled workers. A reduction in logistics operation in a city will lead to a loss in job opportunities that may be not easily replaced. Unemployment will result not only in pressure on social security systems but also create instability in local communities.

Implementation of zero-emission zones cannot merely rely on all freight operators swapping their diesel vehicles with zero-emission vehicles with the same performance. It requires various supporting instruments such as charging infrastructure and micro-logistics hubs. Charging infrastructure in city centre areas is essential for electric vehicles, including electric cargo bikes. Development of charging infrastructure needs a strong public private partnership that can support charge point operators’ business models to be sustainable and successful. Deployment of charging points will require data from the logistics companies to understand their operation patterns.

THE ALL-IMPORTANT LAST MILE

As many cities wish to facilitate the use of cargo bikes for last mile delivery to support the implementation of zero-emission zones, micro-logistics hubs in city centre areas are essential for the use of cargo bikes that cannot carry a large amount of goods and travel only for a short distance. A question of how to best use urban space emerges.

Converting conventional retail space or residential buildings to micro-hubs will not be popular as some cities in Europe have stopped the now controversial ‘dark store’ practices. Dark stores are shops with no windows and no clients. They exist for delivery only and are springing up in European cities brought about by the latest evolution of e-commerce.

As many cities wish to facilitate the use of cargo bikes for last mile delivery to support the implementation of zero-emission zones, micro-logistics hubs in city centre areas are essential

REAL LOGISTICS INNOVATION IN MADRID

Madrid has set a good example of converting local parking spaces to micro-hubs for its zero-emission zones in the city centre. Madrid’s local parking management company has teamed up with logistics operators to convert underground parking lots to micro-hubs. This is co-beneficial, as the implementation of the zero-emission zone will reduce the use of vehicles, resulting in spare parking capacity that is much needed by the logistics sector. The Madrid municipality authority has played the facilitator role in forming the partnership between the parking management company and logistics operators, as well as providing all necessary support needed by various stakeholders. Madrid’s new micro-hub reduces the distance travelled for deliveries by 33%. This good example shows that a local authority can not only help to mitigate negative impacts from implementation of a zero-emission zone but can also help local business to thrive at the same time.

FREIGHT EXPECTATIONS

To ensure success of zero-emission zones, pilot projects allowing stakeholders to test new operational procedures and collaboration schemes, collecting data for an initial impact assessment have been recommended by the publication of How-to Guide On Zero-Emission Zones - Don’t Wait to Start with Freight, jointly published by the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance, C40, and POLIS. The co-creation of pilot projects by the public and the private sector can help to build trust between them and give confidence to the private sector for investments into zero-emission solutions. Private companies should actively participate in such pilot projects to contribute to forming a policy framework that will work for everyone.

The co-creation of pilot projects by the public and the private sector can help to build trust between them and give confidence to the private sector for investments into zero-emission solutions

In the post-COVID era, e-commerce is likely to continue to grow and urban freight transport will continue to grow and become even more complex than today’s. A proactive approach to address future challenges is therefore needed. Implementation of zero-emission zones in a city should not force business or logistics operators to increase cost, which will eventually become a burden on consumers, thus leading to reduced competitiveness of the economy of the city. This would not be sustainable and an undesirable vision for any policy maker.

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