Traditional carmakers have finally caught on to the electric revolution. Volkswagen is investing US$48bn in battery and electric car production, aiming to make 50 million electrified vehicles by 2030. BMW got in early with the concept-car-like design of its electric i3 range and plans to compete with Tesla in the affordable car segment, with the 2019 release of the more conventional looking BMW i4. Toyota, the world's largest car maker, has been making non-plug-in hybrids and is now turning its attention to battery electric vehicles. It intends to have at least 10 battery electric cars on the road by the early 2020s. The bottom line: electric cars are here to stay.
If you're looking for a headline that feels like a tipping point for the sector, this one from Wired's US edition is right on the money: "TESLA FINALLY TURNS A PROFIT AND PROMISES TO KEEP DOING IT." Between 2012 and 2018, Tesla’s sales have grown by 25,000%. It's now even outselling Jaguar, Porsche and Lexus.
But the changes taking place in the consumer market are only half the story. If we're to substantially reduce carbon emissions, the commercial market needs to join in the party.
And it's being led by an unexpected name. The news that you may have missed was picked up by automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt on Twitter. Schmidt noticed that the highest selling electric vehicle in Germany in September 2018 wasn't from Renault, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz or Tesla, but a small startup called StreetScooter.
Owned by DHL, StreetScooter is one of the unsung heroes of the electric vehicle revolution. Its affordable electric delivery vans are helping reduce carbon emissions in urban areas and introduce viable battery electric logistics to companies across Europe and the world.
Back in 2013, DHL went looking for a greener, more environmentally friendly way to get packages from its distribution depots to their final recipients – known as last mile delivery services. No other truck manufacturer offered what DHL was looking for, so it decided to build its own. But DHL is a delivery company, not a vehicle manufacturer. It’s not best-placed to start making its own electric vehicles – that takes specific expertise and production facilities. So in 2014, DHL invested in an electric vehicle startup that focused solely on the commercial market: StreetScooter.
“There is an enormous potential for significant emission reductions in this area,” said CEO of StreetScooter Professor Dr. Achim Kampker, whose electric vehicles are “tailor-made to the requirements of mail and parcel delivery.”
Today, DHL uses 7,000 StreetScooters and 3,200 electric bikes, plus 9,000 other e-bikes and e-trikes from other manufacturers (recently deployed in growth markets like Vietnam). With the majority deployed in Europe currently, StreetScooter’s electric drivetrains are charged using 100% green electricity, helping avoid the production of around 20,000 tons of CO2 every year. Around a fifth of DHL's delivery fleet is now zero emission vehicles, with DHL’s use of green electricity across the whole company already at 63%. However Kampker claims reduced emissions are not the only reason to favor the vehicle’s deployment. “Our product is also economically viable,” he says, with “expenses for wear and maintenance significantly lower than those of comparable diesel-driven utility vehicles.”
They also incur fewer tax penalties, with London’s diesel and gas-powered car drivers having to pay toll fees on work days, while Greater Paris promises to be free of diesel vehicles by mid-2019.
Two factories in Germany, one in Aachen and a new facility in Düren will together produce 20,000 StreetScooter vans every year, doubling the current production capacity in a bid to reduce DHL’s emissions by 70% over the next seven years. Many of these new vehicles will replace DHL’s diesel and petrol fleet, but StreetScooter has found interest from other companies too. From milk delivery firms in the UK to local authorities in Germany, StreetScooter is more than just ‘DHL’s electric van firm’.
To produce more of its larger 200km-range WORK XL model, StreetScooter has signed a contract with Ford to produce an additional 3,500 vans each year using Ford’s hugely popular Transit chassis. With the interior layout of the vehicle’s body “specifically designed for parcel delivery,” says Kampker, “the XL allows for quiet and, most of all, emission-free parcel delivery on the last mile.”
Recent developments also mean the StreetScooter will soon be equipped to go beyond that, with a fuel-cell drive, extending its range up to 500 km. As Kampker points out, this will therefore be enough for “trans-regional transports,” extending their emission reduction efforts. DHL's commitment doesn't stop there. We have pre-ordered 10 Tesla Semi trucks – Tesla’s much-hyped electric truck – and already use six FUSO eCanters, a smaller all-electric delivery vehicle from Daimler.
DHL isn’t the type of company to stick its head in the sand: as a large global organization employing more than half a million people and operating nearly 100,000 vehicles, we realize that we’re a producer of carbon emissions – as is any company of our size and scale. So in 2017 DHL set a new plan, called Mission 2050, to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
We're also very aware that making long-term promises like these need actions to back them up. StreetScooter is a successful company building zero emissions vehicles for the global delivery company and that means DHL is delivering more than just promises. We're delivering real-world results.
Will your next DHL delivery be collected or delivered using one of our 19,000 electric vehicles?