© Image © Hermes Electric van Volkswagen eCrafter in service at the German courier Hermes
Faced with the explosion of online commerce, Amazon is investing in its own electric van, in order to green its image. As for Volkswagen, it offers drivers digital tools to schedule their packages and save precious time. The new challenges of delivery.
Have you ever taken a look at the back of the ramshackle van that brings you the long-awaited package? The shock at the sight of the disorder that reigns there is comparable to the disgust experienced when discovering the industrial laboratories where your adored dishes are made: enough to cut your appetite and make you want to order fragile items online. .
Of course, some drivers are more attentive than others. The large couriers provide them with vans equipped with shelves and chests. However, there is material to streamline the parcel delivery process . This is what the German manufacturer Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and the German courier Hermes intend to demonstrate, with the help of their compatriot Viscopic, a Munich specialist in the identification of weak points in industrial processes.
Save the driver the tedious search for the package during the tour, to save time
Viscopic aimed its 3D cameras and scanners in the warehouses and vehicles of the Hermes company. Very quickly, it appeared that precious time was wasted by the driver when he rummaged in the back of his van, looking for the right package. Hence this seemingly simple idea: sort the packages in a logical order dictated by the route of the delivery round; then collect them in small batches in numbered red saddlebags stored in the back of the Volkswagen van. Software observes the vehicle's GPS positioning and displays on its dashboard screen (as well as that of a mobile assistant) the number and location of the bag containing the package to be distributed at the given time .
© Provided by Challenges Obviously, this pilot project set up in Bavaria involves taking the time beforehand to properly prepare the bags, a bit like the postman who makes his job easier by classifying the mail according to his round. However, the gain is not only measured in time, according to its promoters. "The objective is also to improve the working conditions of the drivers ", explains Arthur Hasselback, Project Manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. “Parcel delivery is a very demanding task. City center traffic in particular requires total concentration, parking spaces for our large vehicles are difficult to find, and due to the pandemic and associated security measures, delivery work has become more complex. Smart solutions for the last mile are therefore very interesting for our customers in the logistics sector. ”
The explosion of e-commerce accelerates the transformation of delivery vans: electrification and digitization
There are good reasons to go to so much trouble. According to a CEBR ( Center for Economics and Business Research ) report commissioned by the manufacturer Ford in 2019, the growing popularity of online commerce explains the strong growth in the use of commercial vehicles observed since 2012 (+ 19%). According to the same study, more than half of the population of the European Union made an online purchase in 2018, a figure rising to 83% in the United Kingdom, 80% in the Netherlands and 77% in Germany. .
© Provided by Challenges Surprise! The French are the champions in terms of distance traveled behind the wheel of commercial vehicles, with 88 billion kilometers out of the combined 294 billion kilometers of the seven largest economies in Europe (in 2018). This is 12% better than in 2013.
The confinement of populations in 2020, like the new consumption habits adopted since then, will certainly accelerate this trend, to the chagrin of those who prophesy the city without a car. The Parcel Shipping Index 2021 expects an annual rate of at least 6% until 2026 . During the 2020 holiday season (October to December), Hermes delivered 126 million packages to Germany, a record, an increase of 25% compared to the fourth quarter of the previous year.
In the future, the bulky van will stop at the gates of the city, where it will pass the baton to less bulky vehicles.
The European Union dictates standards which require manufacturers of commercial vehicles to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 31% in 2030 compared to their level of 2021. A challenge that requires the development of electric engines, replacing gasoline and Diesel, but also to establish links between the bulky van, perfect from city to city, and less bulky vehicles, to navigate in the city center. Up to the muscle-powered carrier bike.
© Provided by Challenges Obviously, faced with such challenges, the heavyweights of online commerce are getting organized. Not content with defining the characteristics of the ideal electric van in its eyes, Amazon decided to invest in September 2019 no less than $ 700 million in the capital of the young American manufacturer of electric vehicles Rivian. The same one who received financial support two months later from another American giant, Ford Motor Company this time, to design an electric pickup. A year after taking a stake, Amazon formalized the order for a hundred thousand copies to be delivered in ten years of the electric van designed by Rivian, according to its own specifications. What accelerate the electrification of its rolling stock.
With this fleet of zero-emission vehicles, Amazon hopes to green its image, seriously tarnished by the sling of city dwellers who rise up against the invasion of delivery men in the city center. In the megalopolis of London, online sales throw in the streets up to 300,000 vehicles every day, according to McKinsey & Company quoted by Ford, or 9 million hours spent on the roads each year.
The delivery drone, not that ecological
In some places that are difficult to access, the two-wheeler (motorized or not) is undoubtedly the most suitable delivery vehicle. The young Swedish company Cake believes in it: to respond to the rapid increase in home meal delivery throughout Europe (+ 60% since 2017, with a clear acceleration since the pandemic), it presented at the end of last year a "Cake x Dometic" electric motorbike equipped with a box to keep food hot or cold .
© Provided by Challenges The emergence of this type of two-wheeler does not prevent large couriers and commercial giants from dreaming of autonomous drones. Nevertheless, a surprising study from the University of Halle-Wittenberg came in spring 2020 to reassure Amazon in its choices to invest in new vans: it claims that delivery drones consume ten times more energy in urban areas than vans. electric. And still twice as much as a diesel-powered van.
A good reason for this: when the drone carries only one package, the van contains several dozen, to be dropped off following a route that is important to optimize in terms of distance and time. A task that could seriously facilitate the system developed by Viscopic.