Rapidly growing online trade brings major changes in commercial freight transport. Zero- and low-emission drives in urban commercial transport can alleviate the problem of increasing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions. Analysis shows high growth rates in small and light vehicles, moderate growth or even reduction in larger and heavier vehicle inventory. Analysis recommends further funding measures for vehicles with alternative drives and associated infrastructure.

Berlin, 12 February 2020 – Zero- and low-emission drives in urban commercial transport can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants in municipalities and contribute in a major way to the energy transition in transport. Commissioned by the NOW GmbH, the market potential of vehicles with alternative drives in urban commercial transport has been estimated. ‘Market analysis of urban commercial transport in Germany’, a study by the companies Prognos and KE Consult, is now available.

Commercial freight transport is exhibiting strong momentum at present, which is reflected not only in significant growth in mail volumes and shipments, but also in structural changes in the market (including infrastructure, new market players, vehicles used). Particularly relevant here is online trade, which transforms logistical concepts into separate deliveries and fundamentally changes them spatially (above all in terms of the last mile) and also with regard to shipment sizes. This means that requirements and demands of logistics and delivery service providers have changed needs and demands regarding vehicles and their equipment. In addition, it is mainly metropolitan areas in Germany that are faced with great challenges. Commercial transport, predominantly generated with diesel vehicles, exacerbates the climate and environmental problem for municipalities. Many are responding to the increasing pressure in the form of access restrictions. Furthermore, prognoses suggest that nationally, freight transport will increase by around 38 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010. The share of commercial journeys in urban traffic overall is already now at approx. 35 per cent.

According to analysis, zero- and emission-free drives in urban commercial transport can alleviate the problem. Their numbers are however, still very low in urban commercial transport. Because of trends like increasing online trade, the inventory of small and light vehicles, meaning cars and N1 (1t GVWR-3, 5t GVWR), will show high growth rates by 2030, whereas the amount of larger and heavier vehicles of the EU vehicle N2 category (3.5t-12t) will only grow moderately by 2030. In the N3 vehicle category (>12t), the number of vehicles in urban commercial transport will decline by 2030. An important driver for this is the growing market in courier, express and parcel services. In the general cargo and consumer goods segments, only slight growth is expected.

The usual characteristics in terms of deployment in the package delivery segment – relatively low transport distances and high numbers of stops per journey – favour using battery-electric vehicles. Tightened rules, the increasing number of vehicles combined with suitable deployment characteristics increase the market potential of cars and light commercial vehicles (N1) with battery-electric drives.

Aside from battery-electric vehicles, in the area of heavy commercial vehicles (N2 and N3), vehicles with hydrogen-fuel cell drives will be used in urban commercial transport by 2030 to a large extent.

Finally, the market analysis on urban commercial transport works out recommendations for action which among other things, aim to consolidate and strengthen funding measures in the area of vehicles with alternative drives and associated infrastructure.

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Workshop series on urban commercial transport

This series of events works out solutions for clean freight transport – from the distribution centre to the urban end consumer. Battery-electric, fuel cell and natural gas drives will be considered. The focus is on framework conditions, funding instruments, vehicle and infrastructure requirements as well as technical hurdles for low-emission city logistics. Building on progress reports, areas of activity will be determined and networking of players strengthened. The results of the now published market analysis was presented and discussed at the second workshop: ‘Urban commercial transport’ in December 2019.