Opinion: Increased adoption of EVs for final mile distribution can accelerate Shoonya-pollution logistics

December 14, 2021, | Randheer Singh & Samhita Shiledar

Currently, the 'final mile' accounts for more than 50 percent of the total logistics cost and disproportionally contributes to air pollution and carbon emissions compelling the transition to green mobility is of utmost importance in India, which is home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

Urban freight is an essential and expanding component of the economy, ensuring that citizens and businesses receive the products they need. With a growing population, rapid urbanization, and the rise in e-commerce, the movement of urban freight is expected to increase 140 percent by 2030.

As the volume of urban freight increases, we can make these deliveries cleaner, healthier, and more cost-effective. Recently launched Shoonya – Zero Pollution Delivery campaign, which promotes the use of clean-running electric vehicles for deliveries, brings together more than 30 organisation to shift to clean mobility in a targeted manner.

Currently, the “final mile” commonly accounts for more than 50 percent of the total logistics cost and disproportionally contributes to air pollution and carbon emissions. The transition to green mobility is of utmost importance in India, which is home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. Emissions from the tailpipes of internal combustion engine vehicles disproportionately contributes to air pollution.

Increasing the use of electric delivery vehicles for final-mile distribution presents an opportunity to reduce both the operational costs and the vehicular emissions associated with increasing urban freight activities. These benefits can be passed on to consumers and society. EVs emit no tailpipe emissions and hence improve air quality and are safer for the public health of the citizens. They emit less CO2 as compared to their internal combustion engine counterparts and are better for the environment. EVs are also more efficient, consuming less energy and costing less to operate.

Shoonya’s approach to promoting electric deliveries is unique in that it targets two broad stakeholder categories consumers and corporations. The consumer-facing side focuses on building awareness and demand for zero-emission deliveries.

The corporate-facing side focuses on creating branding to support corporate efforts towards electrifying final-mile deliveries. The Shoonya campaign has three interconnected components:

Through a corporate branding program, deliveries made with EVs will feature special branding. For example, parcels delivered with EVs will carry a special sticker, the drivers operating electric vehicles will have a unique uniform, and the EVs will carry a logo attesting that they are zero-pollution vehicles.

An online impact tracking dashboard will share the progress and the impact of the campaign, including packages delivered on EVs, vehicle kilometers electrified, and reductions in emissions, energy, and costs.

An EV awareness drive in traditional and digital media channels will highlight the public health and environmental benefits of EVs and the negative externalities of conventional internal combustion vehicles.

The unique selling point of this campaign is the collaboration between the public and private sectors. Industry partners have been involved in the design process, right from the selection of the name. The industry partners include e-commerce companies like BigBasket and Wildermart, food delivery companies like Swiggy and Zomato, vehicle manufacturers including Mahindra, Tata, Altigreen, Euler, Evage, Hero, Kinetic, Shigan, Aashni Motors, and Letrix, fleet aggregators like Areon, DOT, SAR Group, MoEVing, Micelio, LoadExx, Bluedart, Zypp and Amplus Solar and charging infrastructure providers like Sun Mobility

The Shoonya campaign is designed to supplement existing government programs that promote vehicle electrification. In recent years, the national and state governments have launched portfolios of policies to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to promote EV adoption. For example, the FAME II scheme provides incentives for two-wheelers at Rs 15,000 per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity. The ACC Battery Chemistry production-linked incentives will seed the market for giga-factories in India, drive scale, and further bring down the cost of batteries in India. In addition to the national-level initiatives, 16 states have already released their own EV policies with a plethora of incentives.

With supportive policies, the total cost of ownership of freight EVs is below their internal combustion engine counterparts. For example, it costs INR 2.16 per kilometer to operate a three-wheeled goods EV, as compared to Rs 2.24 per kilometer for its counterpart powered by compressed natural gas. Given the attractive economics, the urban freight sector can be a leading example that builds momentum for other segments to follow the pathway to full electrification.

The campaign was launched on September 15, with over 30 organizations pledging their participation. At the launch event, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said, “The Shoonya campaign’s vision is to set the urban freight sector on the pathway to full electrification. We want to make Shoonya and zero-pollution deliveries a household slogan. I am confident that our dynamic private sector will rise to the challenge of making Shoonya a great success.” Putting the impact of the Shoonya campaign into perspective, Clay Stranger, Managing Director at RMI, said, “Transitioning to clean transportation is critical as India continues to move forward towards a sustainable and resilient future.

The Shoonya campaign aims to bring together the EV goals of the nation by targeting consumers and corporates, increasing awareness about EVs, and creating a demand-pull for zero-pollution deliveries. The campaign has already set an example in how leveraging public-private collaboration can bring a positive change in society. Now, the campaign will support the country’s goal towards improving air quality and environmental sustainability. With Shoonya, consumers will not just receive the goods they need at their doorstep but will also get a cleaner and greener planet.

(The authors Randheer Singh is a senior specialist at NITI Aayog and Samhita Shiledar is a manager at RMI. Views expressed are personal)

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