Position paper – The role of light commercial vehicles in sustainable urban mobility and logistics plans

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) – commonly known as vans – power the European economy, helping businesses to thrive. They are key players in logistics chains, facilitating the efficient ‘last-mile’ delivery of goods in urban areas, as well as being key to the provision of services. They play a vital role in sustainable urban mobility and logistics plans.

The automotive sector recognises that a rapid shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles is essential. However, urban freight transport and service operators can only replace conventional powertrain vehicles with low- and zero-emission alternatives if they can be operated cost-effectively while meeting the requirements of both operators and end users. One prerequisite for this is a sufficiently dense suitable network of charging and refuelling stations in both urban and peri-urban areas. Combined with other enabling conditions (such as changes in fuel taxation, fleet renewal incentives, and an extension of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) to road transport fuels), this will speed up the market penetration of low- and zero-emission vehicles.

Alongside better charging and refuelling infrastructure, urban consolidation centres and micro hubs need to be established in order to increase the efficiency of urban freight transport. They are a prerequisite for the deployment of urban freight zero-emission zones, and must be integrated into land use planning.

The following elements must be taken into account when considering urban logistics to ensure both broad public acceptance and a balance between the different aspects of sustainability (economic, environmental, social):

  1. All aspects of urban logistics need to be able to function effectively: delivery, service operations and other forms of commercial traffic.
  2. Commercial vehicles are part of specific and complex business schemes that guarantee the supply of goods and provision of services to cities and people.
  3. For businesses there is a strong total cost of ownership (TCO) focus, and lifecycle costs are carefully considered when purchasing a vehicle.
  4. Commercial vehicles are often custom-built professional tools involving multi-stage production processes. As a result, bodybuilding will differ based on the intended use of the vehicle.
  5. In urban logistics schemes the external benefits that are generated are not monetised and cannot be integrated in the local TCO calculation.

Electrified transport is critical in the field of urban logistics, but needs tailored e-charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure that takes the specificities of larger vans into account.

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