The Future of Distribution & Logistics: Eco-Deliveries: The Greenest Ways to Send Packages Revealed

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  • Same-day delivery is expected to reach a 25% market share by 2025.
  • 2,823 million packages were shipped in the UK in 2019-2020.
  • Drones and bikes are the greenest methods of transportation for distribution for short distances.

With the increase in online shopping over the past 18 months, the safe and proper distribution and delivery of goods has become even more paramount. The surge in e-commerce has put pressure on logistics operations, to ensure they meet tight delivery deadlines and provide real-time package updates. They may also find they’re having to meet the needs of a more environmentally-conscious consumer.

As a result, companies must explore more efficient methods of delivery to meet faster and more personalised delivery needs. This includes both eco-conscious methods and contactless delivery methods. Packaging manufacturing RAJA UK offer insights into the future of last-mile logistics and what they think the future of product distribution looks like.

Methods of delivery transportation and the emissions they produce 

  • A domestic flight produces 53.45g more CO2e per km than your average long-haul flight. It would be better to use a hybrid or Battery-Powered Electric Vehicle (BEV) for domestic deliveries.
  • Green fleets are the future of delivery. An average petrol car produces 75.27g more CO2e than the average hybrid car and 133.57g more CO2e than your average BEV car

Modes of transportation for distribution

Emissions in grams of CO2e per km

Domestic flight

244.3

Regular taxi

203.69

Long-haul flight

190.85

Average car (petrol)

174.3

Average car (diesel)

168.44

Short-haul flight

155.53

Average car (hybrid)

115.58

Average motorbike

113.37

Average ferry

112.86

Average local bus

103.12

Average car (BEV) 

57.28

National rail

36.94

Coach

27.32

Drone

26.8

Bike

16

 CO2 emitted per customer based on driverless vehicles

  • E-vans consistently emit the least amount of CO2, with only 0.9% produced for 200 customers served.
  • Of the RADRs, the Udelv brand produces the least amount of CO2 per 200 customers served.
  • Drones consistently emit more CO2 than their other driverless counterparts. It emits 2.7% more than the Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots.

Safety precautions due to COVID-19 increased the need for contactless delivery in the last mile of package delivery systems. Below is a look at the newer methods of transportation for the last mile from the warehouse to consumers’ front doors. This includes electric vans (E-vans), Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots (SADRs) and Road Autonomous Delivery Robots (RADRs) – the brands NURO and Udelv are used in the example below. The table below shows the carbon emissions of the electric vehicles as a percentage of the carbon emissions generated by the ICE Dodge RAM vehicle as the baseline for this experiment. This is because it generates 22.5 more CO2 equivalent emissions.  

Customers served

Vehicle type

 

SADR +MS*

NURO

Udelv

E-van

Drone

25

1.4%

0.6%

0.8%

0.9%

1.4%

50

2.1%

0.9%

0.8%

0.9%

2.3%

100

2.5%

1.0%

0.8%

0.9%

3.7%

200

3.1%

1.4%

1.1%

0.9%

5.8%

 *Mothership not utilised when distance is 0.

The greenest way to send packages

  • The most eco-conscious way to send something internationally is via international rail, which produces only 0.01 tonnes. A return flight from London to Barcelona would produce 0.34 tonnes of CO2e. 
  • Bikes are the most eco-responsible way to send something locally, producing only 0.0001 tonne of CO2e per trip.

Method of transport

LOCAL – Total transport footprint in CO2e from Kings Cross to Tower Bridge (4.4 miles)

NATIONAL – Total transport footprint in CO2e from Kings Cross to Edinburgh (401 miles)

INTERNATIONAL – Total transport footprint in CO2e from Kings Cross to Barcelona (933 miles)

Plug-in hybrid car (average petrol plug-in hybrid car)

< 0.02 tonnes

0.05 tonnes

0.11 tonnes

Petrol Car (average petrol car)

< 0.02 tonnes

0.11 tonnes

0.26 tonnes

Petrol Van (up to 3.5 tonnes)

< 0.02 tonnes

0.14 tonnes

0.32 tonnes

Motorbike (125-500 cc)

< 0.02 tonnes

0.07 tonnes

0.15 tonnes

Bus

< 0.02 tonnes

0.07 tonnes

0.15 tonnes

Coach

< 0.02 tonnes

0.02 tonnes

0.04 tonnes

National Rail

< 0.02 tonnes

0.02 tonnes

0.05 tonnes

International Rail

N/A

N/A

0.01 tonne

Tube

< 0.02 tonnes

0.02 tonnes

0.04 tonnes

Taxi

< 0.02 tonnes

0.10 tonnes

0.22 tonnes

Flight (return trip)

< 0.02 tonnes

0.28 tonnes

0.34 tonnes

Drone (0.5 kg)

0.0008 tonnes

0.074 tonnes

0.17 tonnes

Bike

0.0001 tonnes

0.011 tonnes

0.26 tonnes

 If you’re looking to send a small cardboard package somewhere close to home (within 5 miles), the bike or the drone is your best option. A bike ride or a drone flight (carrying a package up to 0.5kg) only produces 0.0001 tonnes and 0.0008 tonnes of CO2e respectively.

However, for a delivery further afield, such as from Kings Cross to Edinburgh for example, your best bet is to go for the national rail, which produces only 0.02 tonnes of CO2e during the trip. If public transport isn’t for you, a hybrid vehicle should be your next option. It emits 0.5 tonnes in the 401 miles compared to its petrol counterpart, which produces more than double the CO2e of 0.11 tonnes.

The future of distribution according to RAJA UK

Nigel Smyth, Transport Manager at RAJA UK, reveals his thoughts on what he thinks the future of last-mile logistics will look like for RAJA and what needs to be achieved to make the industry more sustainable.

“We do what we can to be more sustainable in the current climate. All our vehicles will be new build and have been selected to ensure the most efficient solution for our transport needs, they are maintained to the highest standard with EURO 6 emission compliance as a minimum, allowing us to meet all ULEZ & LEZ restrictions and minimise emissions as much as possible. Routes will also be optimised both internally and via a route optimisation platform to ensure minimum stem mileage and to offer a high volume/low mileage solution where possible.”

“The logistics industry is currently facing a national driver shortage, largely because many international drivers have gone back to their native countries during the COVID-19 crisis and a decline in available training during the pandemic. This has meant rates for drivers have increased significantly due to demand. At RAJA, we have developed a long-term solution for successful recruitment, including more benefits, creating a better working environment, offering better working hours, and building an inclusive culture so drivers feel more part of the company as a whole. In many ways the pandemic highlighted the importance of commercial drivers and the role they play in keeping our businesses and services supplied, Seeing them being recognised for this is a feel a positive move in the right direction.”

So, whether the future of last mile logistics means collecting your cardboard wrapped packages from fulfilment warehouse hubs that may replace the high street store, or if you need to get used to waving goodbye to the drone that delivered it to your door, the logistics industry is utilising technology to ensure a better customer experience.