With a share of about 28 percent of global CO2-emissions, China is the world’s biggest emitter. With a total of 1.04 billion tons of CO2 in 2018, the transport sector in China accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Even though freight and logistics vehicles account for only about eight percent of the country’s total vehicle fleet, they account for approximately 70 percent of transport-related CO2-emissions. This makes the freight transport and logistics sector an important key element of the country’s roadmap to decarbonise transport – as part of China’s plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and peak carbon emissions around 2030 while making best efforts to peak earlier.
Annual total CO2 emissions, by world region, Source: Carbon Dioxide Analysis Center (CDIAC), Global Carbon Project (GCP)
In recent years, freight volume in China has been increasing on average by almost 15 percent annually. The total freight volume in 2019 was 47 billion tons and increased nearly 9 fold compared to 5.3 billion tons in 1990. In particular, growing e-commerce activities and food and parcel deliveries have entailed a massive increase of delivery trips and hence transport volumes. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has even further accelerated this development.
Traffic congestion, idling trucks and the lack of commercial vehicle loading zones and designated freight curb areas are only few examples of the various problems caused by the growth of freight transport and logistics activities, particularly in the urban context. The existing road networks and distribution infrastructure are increasingly unable to meet the diverse and dynamic needs of the last mile-delivery, where goods are transported between a distribution center and their destination.
In particular, electric mobility is seen as a key to make transport more sustainable. To tackle climate change and local air pollution, the Chinese government promotes New Energy Vehicles (NEV), including battery-electric, hybrid- and plug-in hybrid, as well as fuel cell vehicles. This applies to different vehicle segments, including freight and logistics vehicles operation in the urban delivery sector.
Battery-electric logistics truck in Chengdu, Source: 2019 China Green Freight and Distribution Analysis Report by TPRI
NEVs have been identified as a key measure to cope with air pollution and, in line with a further increase of renewable energy share in the overall energy mix, to contribute to the decarbonization of urban freight transport significantly. NEVs in the urban delivery sector can also significantly curb noise emissions and enable the flexibilization of delivery hours making night delivery an option in areas with noise level restrictions.
To further promote NEVs in the urban delivery sector, in June 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Transport (MoT), the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) jointly issued the “Green Urban Delivery Pilot Cities Plan”. The policy has the overall aim to foster, promote and support the effective adoption of NEVs in the urban delivery sector, for instance by giving priority to NEVs by implementing “Green Lanes” in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Hangzhou. Currently a total of 22 pilot cities are part of the Green Urban Delivery Pilot Cities Plan. In November 2019, the second round of the plan with 20 new pilot cities was announced by MoT.
Nevertheless, although NEVs in the urban delivery sector seem to be a promising solution in solving the described challenges which are imposed by further growing urban freight volumes, their adoption comes along with various challenges. Among them are high purchasing costs, lack of charging infrastructure, but also missing experience and empirical evidence regarding market scale implementation.
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport (CLCT) project aims to strengthen the cooperation between the BMU and the MoT in the field of climate protection in the transport sector. The overall aim of the project, which is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, is to provide Chinese policy makers and relevant governmental authorities with effective and efficient implementation strategies to further develop a low carbon transport sector in China. A key objective of the CLCT project is to support the mutual exchange between German and Chinese stakeholders on the future of sustainable freight transport and logistics and to support the Chinese partners with technical cooperation and capacity development on effective policy-making and pilot implementation.
To support Chinese policy makers and other relevant stakeholders on the further improvement and development of the roadmap for adopting NEVs in the urban delivery sector, the “Study on the Promotion and Application of New Energy Vehicles in the Field of Urban Logistics Distribution” was commissioned by the CLCT project to the Transport Planning Research Institute (TPRI) of the MoT.
The objective of the study is to provide systematic guidelines for the promotion and application of NEVs in the urban delivery sector in China with concrete and direct reference to the MoT and other national and sub national policy-makers, urban logistics companies and further relevant stakeholders such as local transport bureaus, operators of charging infrastructure, recycling and vehicle maintenance companies. Furthermore, the study will investigate and make available best practices, challenges, and lessons learned from six selected pilot cities (Shenzhen, Foshan, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Yinchuan and Zhangjiakou) of the Green Urban Delivery Pilot Cities Plan. The focus of the investigation lays on the evaluation and assessment of policies and support measures targeting the promotion of NEVs in the urban delivery sector as well as the related provision of technical instructions and methodological support on data requirements and process steps in the conduction of life cycle analysis of NEVs.
The kick-off workshop to the study was held on 28 August 2020 in Beijing, with 22 participants, including Chinese and German experts from well-known research institutions in the field of urban freight and logistics.
Selected representatives from cities participating in the “Green Urban Delivery Pilot Cities Plan” reported about their targets, approaches, and challenges in the promotion of NEVs in the urban delivery sector. Also, the experiences with the promotion of new energy logistics vehicles in the 6 pilot cities were shared. Selected German experts from UPS Germany, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Berlin Senate introduced and discussed experiences in the development of green urban logistics in Germany with the Chinese city representatives and experts from the China Automotive Energy Research Center of Tsinghua University, the China Automotive Technology & Research Center Co. Ltd (CATARC) and the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance (EVCIPA). The participants of the kick-off workshop further discussed the study’s methodology. They concluded the event by jointly emphasizing the urgent need to join forces to provide evidence and research-based suggestions and policies to effectively and systematically adopt NEVs in the urban delivery sector in China and Germany.
The study will be completed in the first quarter of 2021. If you are interested in knowing more about the aims, the methodology and the progress of the research, please feel free to get in touch with us by contacting Dr. Xuan LING (email@example.com), senior advisor freight and logistics in the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport project.
 China Academy of Transportation Sciences (CATS)