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Logistics Made Big Moves to Go Green in 2019

From ground to ocean to air, logistics companies are taking significant steps to lower their carbon emissions and raise their sustainability profiles.

Much of their efforts center of switching to alternative fuels and adapting vehicles and ships to operate with more energy-efficient and environmentally sound modes.

On the ground

DHL’s new “Sustainable Fuels for Logistics” study asserts that the company and transportation industry cannot attain its goals of zero carbon emissions without embracing alternative fuels and energy sources.

“Our aim is to achieve zero-emission logistics by 2050, but this goal cannot be achieved with efficiency measures and a modern fleet alone,” DHL Group CEO Frank Appel said. “We also need to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean alternative energy sources.”

While physical logistics networks remain vital, electrification in local transport is already making an important contribution to the achievement of an energy turnaround, the report said. However, commercial use of electric drive on long-haul and heavy-duty routes is not yet feasible, the company added.

This is where sustainable fuels play a crucial role, as they could be pivotal in reducing the climate impact of transport emissions.

Though the term “alternative” is used for all fuels that are not a part of the fossil fuel group–diesel, gasoline, heavy oil and kerosene–liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) are considered alternative fuels, even though they originate from fossil sources, making them nonsustainable as a result, according to the report.

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Truly sustainable fuels come from renewable sources, have no negative impact on the environment when they are burned and do not produce greenhouse gas emissions.

UPS has taken steps to advance the sustainability of its truck fleet with plans to purchase more than 6,000 natural gas-powered trucks between next year and 2022. The commitment represents a $450 million investment to grow the company’s alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle fleet and support infrastructure. The new vehicles will be equipped with compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel systems provided under an agreement with Agility Fuel Solutions.

Advancing its use of alternative fuels, DHL Express and electric vehicle maker StreetScooter are collaborating on a new electric delivery vehicle. The new “H2 Panel Van” will become the first 4.25 ton electric vehicle with an added fuel cell that will offer additional power and enable a range of up to 500 kilometers.

In a first step, DHL Express has ordered 100 of the fuel-cell vehicles, with delivery expected from 2020 through 2021.

FedEx Corp. is expanding its fleet with 1,000 Chanje V8100 electric delivery vehicles. The logistics company said it will purchase 100 of the vehicles from Chanje Energy Inc. and lease 900 from Ryder System Inc.

FedEx believes wider adoption of alternative-fuel, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles will play a key role in reducing global emissions, while diversifying and expanding renewable energy solutions. The electric vehicles can travel more than 150 miles when fully charged and have the potential to help FedEx save 2,000 gallons of fuel while eliminating 20 tons of emissions per vehicle each year.

On the ocean

A.P. Moller — Maersk and Wallenius Wilhelmsen have teamed up with Copenhagen University and major customers BMW Group, H&M Group, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marks & Spencer to form the LEO Coalition to explore the environmental and commercial viability of LEO fuel for shipping.

LEO, a blend of lignin and ethanol, is seen as a future solution for sustainable shipping. The coalition and its mission follow a recently released study from Maersk and Lloyd’s Register that said the best-positioned fuels for research and development into net zero fuels for shipping are alcohol, including ethanol, biomethane and ammonia.

Maersk also began testing a battery system to improve power production and raise the sustainability bar. A containerized 600 kilowatt marine battery system will be installed in a trial on board the Maersk Cape Town this month to improve vessel performance and reliability, while reducing CO2 emissions.

The pilot will provide a greater understanding of energy storage, Maersk said, that will support the company in moving toward further electrification of its fleet and port terminals. The shipping firm will continue to facilitate, test and develop low-carbon solutions on its path to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey unveiled a comprehensive 30-year plan that lays out a strategy to deal with the need for greater sustainability as it experiences record growth in cargo volume.

The Port Authority will tap the latest technology to drive down diesel emissions, minimize congestion and curb environmental impacts at its facilities, including reducing emissions and exploring low-energy operations. In addition, the Port Authority will support alternate energy sectors with marine facilities for alternate fuels such as offshore wind and liquid natural gas.

In the air

The first of the new Boeing 777 Freighters (B777F) ordered by DHL took off this spring from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), its home operating base, to Bahrain on its commercial maiden flight.

Replacing the older intercontinental fleet with the most fuel-efficient and reliable freighter type allows DHL to meet increasing global demand for express services, the company said. The new Boeing 777 will strengthen DHL’s intercontinental services and connect major DHL hubs in Cincinnati, Leipzig and Hong Kong. Operated by DHL partner Southern Air, the plane will soon commence scheduled operations.

“This efficient, long-range and high-capacity freighter will enable us to serve even more markets with non-stop flights and significantly contributes to greater sustainability in line with our sustainability strategy ‘zero emission by 2050,’” DHL Express CEO John Pearson said.

The director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to seize the opportunity to create a sustainable aviation industry that protects the environment.

Growing concerns over climate change have rightly focused attention on the work aviation is doing to reduce emissions, Alexandre de Juniac said at the Wings of Change Europe conference last month in Berlin. Airlines have cut average emissions per passenger journey in half compared to 1990, the director general said, and the industry is committed to reducing its environmental impact even further.

Airlines continue to invest in more efficient aircraft, more efficient operations and the development of sustainable aviation fuels. The industry has also committed to reduce total emissions to half the 2005 level by 2050, in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.