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Could Switching to EVs Benefit Last Mile Delivery Fleets Facing LEZs?

How do Low Emission Zones (LEZ) affect last mile delivery operations, and could switching your fleet to electric vehicles (EV) benefit your business and the environment?

Low Emission Zone Sign

Cities have become hotspots for air pollution and congestion, so it is not surprising that their decarbonisation is a core part of the UK’s net zero emissions by 2050 plans. Tansport was the largest emitting sector in the UK in 2020, responsible for nearly a quarter of emissions, so addressing the carbon footprint of transport in cities is a priority for local authorities. From electrifying public buses to cycle share schemes and low emission zones (LEZ), many cities have introduced initiatives to encourage cleaner transport methods.

In this blog, we look at:


What are Low Emission Zones?

Low emission zones (LEZs) are schemes designed to tackle air pollution and congestion in cities. By banning or charging polluting vehicles that do not meet the euro emission standards for entering, LEZs aim to encourage individuals and businesses to switch to cleaner transport methods like electric vehicles (EVs).

There are 320 zones across Europe as of 2022, including in major UK cities such as London, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Glasgow. As more cities look to address their environmental impact and implement net zero plans, we can only expect this number to rise.

Because last mile delivery vehicles frequently enter these low emission zones to deliver to destinations within the area, they have a big impact on city carbon emissions meaning they will also bear the brunt of LEZ charges.

Last Mile Delivery and Cities

With home delivery skyrocketing in recent years, the carbon impact of that in urban areas can be significant, with some estimates suggesting they account for between 20 to 30% of a city’s emissions.

Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) also emit a range of pollutants, which can have a worrying impact on public health. For example, poor air quality in cities has been linked to a life altering health conditions including lung, respiratory and heart diseases. What’s more, the expansion of ecommerce and the growing demand for home delivery is expected to cause an 36% increase in delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030. A 2020 study found that, during Black Friday, online purchases delivered directly to homes make up most of the online shopping market and have a higher greenhouse gas footprint than in-store shopping due to the transport emissions.

By switching to an electric fleet, a business can have a real positive environmental and health impact on urban areas and communities.

Driving down business costs

For many businesses, last mile delivery already represents a huge cost. But companies driving ICE courier fleets regularly within city LEZs could face further costs. Take the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) as an example. The current daily charge is £12.50 for vehicles that do not meet its standards, with an additional penalty of £180 if not paid. If one vehicle entered the zone every day for a month, this would add up to a cost of around £375. When this number is multiplied to include a whole fleet of vehicles and across a year, LEZ zones quickly become a major business expense for non-electric last mile delivery fleets. And this price is only expected to increase as more cities embrace low emission initiatives.

On top of avoiding LEZ charges, upgrading to electric already offers multiple practical and cost benefits for businesses. For example, the average ICE vehicle has an efficiency of only around 40%, with 60% lost via heat and friction. This means ICEs consume far more energy travelling the same distance as an electric vehicle. Plus, with fewer parts, EVs also have much lower maintenance costs, which are on average 30% less than ICE vehicles. Add the fact charging at a depot is lower than the price of a full tank of petrol or diesel, then it becomes clear that the total cost of operation can be reduced by adopting an EV fleet for last mile deliveries.

Where to start with electrifying your Last Mile Delivery Fleet

Transitioning to an electric last mile delivery fleet is not only a choice that benefits the health and environment of urban areas, but also an economically viable choice that could generate savings in the long term. While most fleet managers are aware of the need to electrify, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Mer has put together a guide to help you understand the process the follow, wherever your fleet is in its electrification journey.

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