Ever since Amazon transformed the way we shop, many of us have gotten used to the sight of delivery trucks crisscrossing our neighborhoods multiple times a day. In terms of sustainability, this has always felt like somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, if online shopping can cut out individual car trips to the mall (not to mention the need for gigantic, air conditioned Big Box stores), then it stands to make the retail experience considerably more efficient. On the other hand, diesel powered trucks stopping and starting every few blocks in the middle of residential neighborhoods is hardly the way to free us from fossil fuels or ensure clean air.
That's why solving the "last mile" delivery challenge should be a priority for anyone interested in advancing a cleaner planet. Now DHL (Deutsche Post)—one of the very companies responsible for delivering all those over-sized Amazon boxes to our doors—is getting into the electric vehicle business, selling a small, all electric delivery truck that it developed for its own operations.
Called the StreetScooter, Cleantechnica reports that the van will go on sale to third party private companies in 2017, although it's not entirely clear whether that will be in Germany only or to a wider geographical area. (The fact that the StreetScooter website is in German only may answer that question for now.) Featuring around 70 miles of range, and claiming a 50% reduction in maintenance and running costs and 80% reduction in repair costs, it seems likely that a van like this would appeal to many fleet managers—regardless of the additional environmental/corporate social responsibility benefits. (Although, no word yet on price.) Given that many cities are also cracking down on air pollution, it's also likely that such vehicles will benefit from a growth in "low emission zones" and other urban traffic control measures.
DHL has also developed an electric cargo bike and an electric cargo trike too. Once such delivery vehicles take off, we can all feel a little less guilty about our online shopping habits—that's if we can also solve the excess packaging challenges and find ways to revitalize our downtowns too.