News in the road transport sector has been dominated by vehicle innovation in 2018, especially the growing interest in electric vehicles (EV) as an alternative to the much-maligned diesel engine. In the UK, the Government announced its intention to ban all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, so it now seems to be the case of when rather than if for hybrid and electric trucks. But this was by no means the only story to appear last year that is driving widespread coverage in the mainstream press.
In November, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Semi, with his usual hyperbole, pizzazz and suggestions of ground-breaking advancement. This electric truck, due to go into production in 2019, boasts semi-autonomous driving and an impressive range of up to 500 miles. A host of big names, including the likes of FedEx, DHL, Budweiser, PepsiCo and UPS, have already seen enough to place orders worth almost $100 million.
Closer to home, Ocado and Royal Mail announced trials involving electric vehicles during 2017 as they explore news of cutting emissions and noise pollution as well as of course increasing efficiencies within their delivery operations. While the manner of the announcements may have been a little more understated than that of Tesla, much of the core message was certainly the same – this is the likely future for delivery vehicles, so we need to be pioneering this emerging technology now.
So what is the sentiment within the logistics sector?
This positive attitude toward EV technology was also mirrored in the results of our annual UK customer survey. One in five logistics operations told us that they already have a fleet strategy in place for electric or hybrid vehicles, while a further quarter are expecting to adopt the technology in some form over next couple of years.
When we quizzed them further about the most significant transport development over the next 12-months, over a third also suggested that the tightening restrictions in urban areas and a greater focus on environmental responsibility has become the driving force behind sustainable vehicle technology.
One respondent explained: “With Tesla launching its impressive electric truck named Semi, I think 2018 is going to be the first year that electric vehicles start to have an impact on transport and delivery operations.” Another suggested that any roll-out would most likely occur in urban areas first: “Electric vehicles in towns and cities will be the biggest development this year – I truly believe in this emerging technology and feel it is something that will be high on the agenda.”
As yet though, there is no universal solution for “more environmentally-friendly and autonomous transportation by road”, with one customer telling us innovation is happening in a number of ways: “While Tesla is actively driving development in the first electric heavy-duty truck launch, many truck manufacturers are also working on alternative solutions like road trains, with multiple vehicles controlled only by one (first) driver.”
However, with regards to driverless and autonomous vehicles the feedback was still very much mixed, with clear reservations about the technology. Around 45% did think it is a good idea in principle, but over half believed that it was either unsuitable for UK roads or was simply too far off in the future to be relevant for the time being.
Overcoming potential planning challenges
The biggest barrier to the take-up of EVs has always been around the range when compared to traditional vehicles. This also becomes a key parameter for transport planners who are now faced with an additional constraint when creating daily routes, which if calculated wrongly could cause considerable hassle and probably unhappy customers.
At Paragon, we are already preparing for the increased switch to electric and hybrid road transport by enhancing our route optimisation software to address the potential challenges associated with route planning for commercial vehicles with limited range. This includes some new functionality to our software solution to help customers simplify the planning process for fleets that combine both sustainable and conventional vehicles.
So how does this work? Well, transport planners are now able to define the actual range of a electric truck or van, ensuring the route planning software restricts the distance of any trip to the vehicle’s maximum range. If any further tweaks or adjustments take place that takes the planned mileage above and beyond the range of a certain vehicle, an alert warns the planner of a possible issue, hopefully averting what could be a costly problem.
As the number of logistics operations committed to low-emission, fuel-efficient technology, its critical our software reflects this change. In this particular case, it was the result of a specific customer request, but it is clear to us that this will become more and more relevant for all logistics operations as greener vehicles are introduced over the coming years.
Whether you are planning to introduce electric vehicles to an existing fleet, or replace your fleet completely with sustainable vehicles, why not get in touch and we’ll explain how route optimisation software could work for your transport operation.
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