The reduction of emissions in urban areas becomes increasingly important. A shift from conventional vehicles to electric vehicles is one option to reduce local emissions. However, concerns about range, payload, lack of charging infrastructure or high purchase costs can hamper the introduction of electric commercial vehicles. The following article shows general experiences with electric commercial vehicles in urban commercial transport based on scientific studies.
Since 2000s, several projects within the European Union were conducted with the objective to identify potential early adopters of e-vehicles in commercial transport. An overview is given by Ehrler et al (2019). This contributions presents central lessons learned from former electric mobility Projects.
One of the main questions that often arise is whether an electric vehicle is really suitable for real use in urban logistics. Various studies evaluated the tour patterns of companies by tracking single vehicles, conducting surveys among fleet managers or evaluating other available data sources. The results differ between countries and the tour length depends on business sectors:
For nursing trips in Germany, it could be noted that about 90% of these trips have an average tour length below 100 km (Klauenberg, Gruber, Frenzel, Zajicek, & Kaplan, 2014). A more general overview over different sectors was analyzed in Denmark and Austria. Here, still 70% (Denmark) and 75% (Austria) of all surveyed tours have an average tour length up to 100 km (Klauenberg, Gruber, Frenzel, Zajicek, & Kaplan, 2014). Analogue results for Austria were obtained in a testing campaign with nine participating companies in Graz (Trummer/Hafner 2016). In Lisbon, the real use of electric vehicles showed that companies observed in their kilometers before and after the use of electric vehicles did not change and remained at an average of 60km per day (Duarte, 2016). A very similar length for trips (57km) was observed for over 900 trips in Bilbao (Spain) and Lyon (France) (Pluvinet, 2012).
However, these values are arithmetic averages, so it is possible that individual tours are longer than the range of electric vehicles. In this respect, the 1:1 exchange of conventional. Vehicles by electric vehicles are not accepted. A study in Graz showed that 68% of the tours could be carried out without problems. For 11% of the trips the electric vehicles would not be suitable.
In summary, it can be said that on average the electric vehicle is well suited for use in urban logistics, since a range of over 100 km is no longer a problem for electric vehicles.
In addition to the range, the concern about the charging time often plays an important role. But real applications can show that this is not a problem for the average commercial user in urban logistics.
In a survey of 21 companies from Graz from various sectors (municipalities, gastronomy, trade of goods and crafts), 75% of these companies had a rest period of 6 to 16 hours a day. These would thus be compatible with the charging times of 5-10 hours specified by the manufacturers for electric vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (Trummer & Hafner, 2016). This is also supported by the observations in Lisbon, where an average charging duration of 6.2 hours and overnight charging could be observed. It was also found that the vehicles had consumed on average only 62% of their battery capacity by the time it was recharged (Duarte, 2016). According to an analysis of commercial owners of electric vehicles in Germany, 77 % charges the e-vehicles between 15:00 and 22:00. Charging of e vehicles is conducted mostly on own premises (Frenzel, 2016).
The purchase costs of electric vehicles today are about 1.3 times higher than those of conventional vehicles. Still, the number of e-vehicles in the European Union is rising. What are the reasons for Early Adopters to use e-vehicles?
The motivation for e-vehicle usage was surveyed in several studies (Barisa, 2016), (Klauenberg, Gruber, Frenzel, Zajicek, & Kaplan, 2014), (Ehrler, Lobig, & Rischke, 2019) (Rolim, 2014). Especially environmental and image reasons are cited as recurring reasons to use e-vehicles, but also driving comfort is seen as an advantages of e-vehicles.
As with any vehicle purchase and in particular for commercial use, reliability is essential. Studies have shown that the vehicles are reliable in daily usage. In a German study, for example, there were hardly any vehicle failures, and in the FREVUE project, there was not a single technical failure during a few months to two years of use when testing the vehicles in different cities (Quak, 2016) (Ehrler, Lobig, & Rischke, 2019).
A quantitative survey in Germany with around 1100 participants found that a large proportion of early adopters include e-vehicles in the existing fleet. 40 % of the respondents stated that they were abolishing a conventional vehicle when purchasing an electric vehicle. A few keep the conventional vehicles for safety until they have built up trust in the electric vehicles (Frenzel, 2016).
In a survey of early adopters, a study found that more complex route planning is necessary to avoid efficiency losses. These are mainly due to the limited range and the charging infrastructure, which is currently not yet fully developed to satisfaction, and therefore require more long-term planning (Lobig and Ehrler, 2016).