15 oct 21

Bpost: "We need telematics to understand the characteristics of fleet electrification"

The rise in demand during the pandemic is a motivator for logistics companies to bolster their plans in fleet management. Belgium's largest logistics company bpost took a giant step towards this with the recent acquisition of 1.200 e-vans

Els Renders, project leader for the electrification of the bpost fleet emphasizes sustainability as the main goal, coming along with other critical aspects such as ecology and economy. 

Renders states their 2030 goal as cutting carbon emissions by 60%. Fleet electrification is vital to reach this goal. Renders says the logistics giant aims to have a fully electric fleet in 2030. By then, the 10.000 full last-mile fleet size is expected to increase to 18.000 to meet the demand. 

Renders explained what bpost is doing to set the foundations of a sustainable e-commerce fleet:

What is your roadmap to achieve fleet electrification?

Bpost currently operates 100 electric vehicles in different cities, including Mechelen with a completely green fleet. We take the necessary step to already have 1200 extra electric vehicles by the end of 2022. By 2025, vehicles in major cities of Belgium will become emission-free. And by 2030, we aim to reach full electrification with an estimated 18.000 vehicle fleet. 

How do you select the vehicles that are fit for your fleet?

For each type of service such as journal distribution, collect, parcel delivery, operational requirements are defined with specifics including small or big van and need of rear windows. We also consider technical specifications such as fuel consumption along with operational requirements. We are having a gradual transition to electric cars, we also take CO2 emissions into account when ordering diesel vans. Considering the requirements, the fleet team and the lease companies decide the specific types of vehicles fit for bpost. We have to launch public requests to the market for these types of purchases as we are a public company.

What is your collaboration level with suppliers in terms of charging infrastructure and maintenance? 

Currently, we have separate contracts for e-cars and their related charging infrastructure. Charging infrastructure is installed by the supplier on our site. The same supplier is also responsible for preventive and corrective maintenance.

What kind of a process will you follow to apply the training and technologies associated with electric vehicles?

Fleet electrification concerns fleet managers and the drivers in our fleet. As for drivers, they will receive training on how to drive an automated car instead of a vehicle with a manual gearbox. Also, the acceleration of EVs are different, which will be taken in hand in the foreseen training.

Even though not so complex, the drivers also receive training on how to link the cars with the charging pillar. As for fleet managers, they will receive training on how to use the related management software of the infrastructure. Maintenance and repairs of the cars plus infrastructure are outsourced. So, no training is foreseen currently.

How critical is telematics for your current operations? 

Fleet is a critical element in our organisation, both in terms of “uptime/downtime” as well as operational usage. Telematics is therefore important to understand both characteristics of the cars as well as charging infrastructure.

Charging infrastructure will represent a critical soft-and hardware system in a 100% electrified fleet. Telematics will help us to implement load and phase balancing (and hence balance power supply on-site), prioritising charging cycles depending on organisational implementation. Also, it will provide necessary follow-up on the down-and uptime of all systems. For our e-cars, telematics will help us to get a clear view of how drivers are using their cars and enable us to report on the implementation of different initiatives such as our eco-driving program. This is already the case for our existing diesel fleet.

What expectations do you have in the coming years in terms of operational efficiency? 

Operational efficiency is the same between electric vans and diesel vans. Refuelling procedures are changed by charging procedures, so we don't change our operational flows in terms of electrification. The implementation of emission-free zones can thus be achieved by a switch between diesel and electric vans without a change in operational procedures.

We see more and more regulations with regards to access of cars in urban areas, next to the implementation of low emission or emission-free zones. We need to implement other means of transportation in the areas where all kinds of cars, including EVs, are banned, such as e-bikes, cargo trailers. For areas where implementation of these transport is not obliged, we're investigating if operational efficiency is increased by their use. In crowded and congested urban areas, cargo trailers can be more efficient for distribution than a car.

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen