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The Cost and Effectiveness of Sustainable City Logistics Policies Using Small Electric Vehicles

Sustainable Logistics

ISBN: 978-1-78441-062-9, eISBN: 978-1-78441-061-2

Publication date: 4 December 2014



In the recent decades, research and industry on city logistics have tried to seek for environment-friendly solutions that are efficient enough to satisfy both society and suppliers’ needs. One of the potential solutions is the use of small-size electric vehicles (SEVs), due to their improved energy efficiency, local zero emissions, and lower traffic disturbance.

In spite of all the benefits of SEV for society, advertised through experimental trials focused on social and environmental benefits, research on these vehicles’ impacts seems to overlook the effects on private stakeholders operations, namely, disregarding the replacement rate needed to assure the same delivery patterns and their purchasing and battery charging implications.


In this chapter, the authors contribute in filling this research gap by considering private interests, related to operation costs levels (running and driving costs), service levels, and efficiency in the promotion of SEV. Simultaneously, its balance with public interests, related with sustainability, quality of life, mobility, and environmental issues are also addressed.


The authors aim to evaluate the usage of SEV in this research and to estimate the effects of replacing conventional vans by SEV on city logistics operations. The results of this quantitative analysis enlighten if SEVs are indeed a viable solution to satisfy public and private stakeholders, when operational and external costs are fully accounted.

The chapter presents a case study that addresses the effects of replacing vans by SEV on city logistics operations in the city of Oporto (Portugal), considering public and private stakeholders’ interests. The study compares four scenarios of 5%, 10%, 30%, and 70% of SEVs replacing diesel vans used in transport and unloading operations. The four scenarios are tested on different geographical scales: street and city levels. First, the authors estimate how the use of SEV in city logistics affects traffic, energy consumption, and emissions. Second, the respective operating and external costs are quantified and the acquisition and battery issues are discussed.


When considering the goal of promoting SEV as a sustainable city logistics policy, under a methodology focused on mobility, operational performance, and environmental externalities, the authors concluded (a) the replacement rate SEV:van is determinant to make a decision on whether or not to use SEVs replacing vans, (b) SEVs are economically competitive with conventional vans if the replacement rate is 1:1, (c) SEVs have a better performance at the street level rather than at the city level, (d) SEVs can be used with normal traffic as a niche of market (lower than 5%), and (e) SEVs benefits exist, but they are not significant enough to drive suppliers for their adoption.




Thanks are due to Fundaçãopara a Ciência e Tecnologia for the Post-Doctoral financial supports (SFRH/BPD/79684/2011 and SFRH/BPD/74080/2010). The authors also acknowledge EU Project DOROTHY financed by the Programme Regions of Knowledge (REGIONS-2012-2013-1).


Melo, S., Baptista, P. and Costa, Á. (2014), "The Cost and Effectiveness of Sustainable City Logistics Policies Using Small Electric Vehicles", Sustainable Logistics (Transport and Sustainability, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 295-314.



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