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22 Jun 21

How FedEx will turn its fleet carbon neutral

Half of the FedEx Express global pick-up and delivery vehicles will be electric by 2025, and all of its new vehicle purchases will be electric by 2030, but the company will still need to do more to meet its sustainability commitments.

Logistics and delivery companies will have to deploy a wide range of transformational measures to achieve carbon neutrality, according to one of the sector’s major global players. As businesses make powerful environmental commitments and city and national governments impose tighter restrictions on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, global logistics giant FedEx is looking at measures well beyond electric vehicles to achieve carbon neutrality.

The surge in internet shopping during the pandemic has accelerated consumer trends, with 53% of retail sales forecast to be online by 2028. This is creating a tension between consumer demand and sustainable solutions, with the clock ticking towards a deadline as early as 2030 in some major European countries for the end to the sale of new internal combustion vehicles.

CO2 cuts

FedEx has focused on reducing its emissions since 2009, achieving a 40% cut in CO2 emissions intensity (on a revenue basis) by 2019 through a variety of fuel and energy saving initiatives, despite a 99% increase in package volumes over the same period. Globally, the company already has more than 4,000 alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrid, electric, compressed or liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and it has committed to add 1,000 Chanje V8100 electric delivery vehicles to its fleet. (Read more about fleet electrification plans from the Global Fleet Live conference here.)

However, with more than 25,000 vans and shuttles in Europe alone, more than 6,500 trucks and trailers and about 70 aircraft, the scale of its sustainability challenge is huge, and means the company’s bold goal of achieving carbon neutral operations globally by 2040 will require a step-change in its processes and technology, said Ed Clarke, Vice President Ground Operations, FedEx Europe.

To meet its sustainability bjective, the company has pledged a $2 billion initial investment in three key areas: vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration. 

“There is no silver bullet to take us forward on this, no single purchase that I can make right here, right now that will take us to where we need to be to hit that zero emissions target,” Clarke told delegates to the virtual Smart Transport conference.

Technology trials

He added that FedEx is trialling cargo bikes, on-foot deliveries and electric vehicles in its quest for carbon neutrality, determined to ensure it invests in solutions and technology that are capable of satisfying its operational needs.

“If we invest in assets that might have a seven- to 15-year asset life, we need to make sure it’s the right tool for the job,” said Clarke.

A recent trial of an electric van, for example, discovered that while it looked good on paper it was uncomfortable to drivers to get in and out of the vehicle 80 times per day; findings that were fed back to the manufacturer.

FedEx already has pockets where it has made large scale deployments of electric vehicles and has identified areas where it is looking to invest in future.

EV charging

The company is also ensuring that any infrastructure changes it makes will support an electrified future.

“At one of our locations that we have recently purchased and set up, we managed to get 30 EV charge points installed as part of the structure,” said Clarke.

He would like to see FedEx depots have the capacity to recharge a 100% electric fleet, but said the power supply to most of its locations was capable of charging only about one third of its vehicles. The current charging infrastructure cannot yet support a move to fully electric solutions, and a multi-million dollar investment would be required to increase the recharging capacity to cover FedEx’s entire fleet, said Clarke.

This is a significant issue given that in Europe, FedEx has committed to electrify its pick-up and delivery fleet by 2040 through a phased vehicle replacement programme. By 2025, 50% of the FedEx Express global pick-up and delivery vehicles will be electric, and all of its new vehicle purchases will be electric by 2030.

The company is involved in ‘open and on-going dialogue’ with city planners to secure the funding and infrastructure to support the logistics sector’s zero emission plans. Discussions are also taking place with urban authorities about securing space in city centres for distribution centres, after years of ‘logistics sprawl’ that have seen logistics warehouses and depots migrate out to suburban and extra-urban areas.  

“Bringing logistics closer to the heart city centres would make it easier for transportation companies to operate in more sustainable ways, deploying a range of transport modes such as cargo bikes and foot couriers to minimise the impact of the last mile delivery in our cities,” said Clarke.

Rail freight and trains

Another solution he is exploring is the use of rail freight to carry cargoes into the centre of cities, a transport mode that could reduce carbon emissions by 26%, even taking into account the energy required to take loads to and from rail terminals.

Hydrogen is a further area of zero emission interest for larger vehicles and longer distances, although as with EV charging infrastructure, the hydrogen refuelling network needs to develop significantly.

And last week the company announced a multi-year pilot of Nuro’s zero emission, autonomous bots for last mile deliveries (pictured above).

Amid all of these options, one thing remains clear.

“Demand for easily accessible and readily available shipping services will continue to soar,” said Clarke.

 

Images: FedEx, Nuro

Authored by: Jonathan Manning