Using green logistics in the battle against pollution


The film Back to the Future II, shot in the late 1980s but set in the year 2015, may not have accurately depicted all the technological developments of the present day (hover boards anyone?) yet, in some areas, it predicted technology that is now commonplace. Video conferencing, eerily similar to Skype, is shown, as are special drones for walking dogs or policing.

While today’s drones may not yet be acting as policemen or walking our dogs, global online shopping and distribution company, Amazon, is working towards using them to deliver packages to customer’s doorsteps thus removing many delivery trucks from city streets.

The company is in talks with the US Federal Aviation Authority to gain approval for their Prime Air drones, which would deliver packages for the final leg of the journey (the so called ‘last mile’). A statement from Amazon reads: “One day, Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

But while it could still be some time before packages of up to 2.5 kilogrammes, are buzzing around at 80km/h across city skies, cities are increasingly focusing their attention on logistics as another way to reduce costs, inefficiencies, congestion and pollution.

“A vast amount of technologies are already available today to manage different aspects of the movement of goods,” says Lina Konstantinopoulou, Project Coordinator from ERTICO, a European based partnership of 100 companies and institutions involved in the production of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). “However, these existing systems are currently not linked to each other, and thus we are missing the opportunity to optimise performance of their cooperation and leaving a large gap for improving goods management.”

ERTICO is heading up the first European project fully dedicated to the deployment of cooperative ITS applied to logistics. Called CO-GISTICS, the project, funded by the European Commission, was launched in January 2014 in seven logistics hubs. Arad (Romania), Bordeaux (France), Bilbao (Spain), Frankfurt (Germany), Thessaloniki (Greece), Trieste (Italy) and Vigo (Spain), have been working with 33 partners including fleet operators, public authorities, terminal operators and logistics providers to pilot new solutions using cooperative services and intelligent cargo.

Five key issues that will be tackled over the course of the three-year project include intelligent truck parking and delivery areas management, multimodal cargo, CO2 footprint estimation and monitoring, priority and speed advice, and eco-drive support.



Intelligent parking and delivery space management

In Bilbao, one of the most important shipping gateways to the Iberian peninsular and Europe, the city has been working closely with multinational Schneider Electric to improve last-mile delivery practices. The company’s EcoTrafiX technology, among other features, tackles the misuse of loading zones that provokes double-parking of delivery vehicles, which in turn complicates traffic flow in the city’s narrow streets.

“With this CO-GISTICS solution, commercial vehicles will have more parking space in the loading zones for their deliveries and errands,” says Estibaliz Barañano, from Schneider Electric’s Global Solutions, Transport – R&D and Innovation Department. “And local authorities will get insight about how, where, and when the loading zones are being used, allowing them to plan better.”

The technology uses a geographic information system, real time data visualisation, open data for mobile services and automatic response plans, that will also help Bilbao reduce its CO2 output.

Barañano says the technology will become available to any operator, large or small, through an open data interface, providing delivery companies access to real-time data that could easily be expanded to other areas.

“Special parking space monitoring and management is a service any other municipality might need,” she adds. “And the solution is not only restricted to loading zones but also bus stops, or emergency vehicle spaces.”



Reducing emissions

The Spanish capital Madrid is also attempting to increase efficiencies in last- mile deliveries, but with a greater priority on reducing emissions and improving the quality of air for city residents.

The Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe project, or FREVUE, also supported by the European Commission, has gathered eight ‘first phase’ European cities to use electric vehicles and loading consolidation platforms, to offer a viable alternative to diesel vehicles.

It is in the old fruit and vegetable market in the south of Madrid, that the city government has established a consolidation platform, or micro logistics base. This has four charging points of different Amp capabilities for electric vehicles and from here partner companies – including freight delivery companies SEUR and TNT, and dairy producer Calidad Pascual – receive some of their deliveries from larger trucks, which electric vehicles then distribute over the last mile throughout the city.

Half of the €1 million funding is provided by the European Union, with the rest made up from freight operators and €60,000 from Madrid’s city coffers. According to the Energy Agency of Madrid, which manages the FREVUE project, preliminary results reveal that 5 tonnes of CO2 has been saved per vehicle per year.

While the FREVUE approach has scored some success, with Calidad Pascual already working on two similar pilot projects in Barcelona and Malaga, it has come in for some criticism.

“EVs [electric vehicles] can help reduce fuel consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of traffic but the replacement of diesel vans by EVs cannot reduce congestion,” says Jürgen Schultheis, Senior Manager at Frankfurt’s House of Logistics and Mobility (HOLM) one of the companies involved in Frankfurt’s CO-GISTICS pilot. “Several surveys predict an increase in the number of light and heavy vans on the road over the next few decades and EV or fuel cell driven vehicles will not reduce this congestion.”


Eco-drive support services

In Frankfurt, two-thirds of Germany’s air cargo is managed at the city’s growing airport, placing an enormous strain on the region’s road network.

It is also at an important European crossroads, linking the north and the south of the continent and the east and west via the A3 and A5 highways.

“Congestion is a phenomenon that we face every morning and every evening in rush hour,” explains HOLM’s Schultheis. “Up to 350,000 vehicles, including cars, light and heavy vans and buses are passing this interchange everyday.”

Working with Fraport (the airport manager), T-Systems International (technology provider) and others, HOLM has helped implement intelligent parking and logistics, CO2 estimation and monitoring, and eco- drive support services.

A smart drive app, developed by T-Systems, promotes more efficient driving from light and heavy goods drivers. Available on Android and Apple operating systems, it uses data from GPS systems that allows it to translate data and information relevant to CO2 emissions, to provide drivers with real- time data allowing them to optimise their driving behaviour.

“We can save from 4 to 15 percent in fuel consumption,” says Schultheis. “These are the results from the first test runs. Keep in mind that in Germany we have an annual diesel consumption of 21 billion litres. If we are able to reduce this by 4 percent it would be a major step forward in making freight transport more sustainable.”

Schultheis admits that the ultimate goal has to be zero-carbon freight transport by 2050, as outlined by the EU’s 2011 White Paper on transport. “But within the CO-GISTICS project our goal is to reduce congestion as much as possible,” he says.

Madrid representatives, however, believe that it is the financial savings for partner companies by switching from diesel to EVs that will ensure the financial longevity of green logistics.



Who pays?

As an unnamed city official, asked during a conference that covered green logistics: “This all sounds great but what happens when the EU stops funding it? What happens when the pilots end?”

CO-GISTICS representatives state that their public and private partners are committed to bringing their logistics solutions to real world deployment and to be self-funding and operating.

“The CO-GISTICS pilots will increase the chances of producing a viable business model,” says Konstantinopoulou. “By providing visible benefits to associated partners in the logistics chain, the project increases its chances of finding shared models for splitting costs and benefits between different stakeholders.”

In Bordeaux, officials from French technology company Aguila, one of the companies that is working with that city’s CO-GISTICS pilot, state that freight companies are keen to participate, and that funding and support from the private sector could be easily tapped into.

“We even had too many freight and truck companies wanting to participate,” says Odile Corbon, Business Development Manager, Aguila. “They are obviously very open to deploying new technologies that can allow them to save operating costs and that can also improve their ecological image.”

Similarly important to get things started is the involvement of public officials and administrations.

“The city’s involvement in the pilot is key,” explains Javier Castaño, Project Manager at the Energy Agency of Madrid that is in charge of Madrid’s FREVUE pilot. “The city assumes costs such as 24/7 security, the use of the building, and installation of the charging infrastructure. The idea would be to have self-funding facilities whose costs would be covered by the operators based on that specific consolidation centre.”

Whether the key problem tackled is congestion or emission reductions, cities and the private sector are increasingly taking a bigger interest in green logistics. All seem to recognise that the long-term goals guarantee the common interest of all partners.

“The integration of currently existing freight and transport systems and services, with the inclusion of new innovative aspects such as cooperative services and intelligent cargo, will help make the operation of their goods, trucks, roads, harbours, airports and rail terminals more sustainable, thus leading to improved environmental and economic viability,” says Konstantinopoulou.

An updated listing of preliminary results and evaluations from the CO- GISTICS pilot cities and FREVUE cities will be released throughout 2015– in time perhaps to be joined by Amazon’s flying drones.

Source: Cities Today