Test bed: Deutsche Post DHL’s emissions-neutral electric vehicle

In 2017, Deutsche Post DHL Group set a goal to make its entire logistics fleet zero emissions by 2050. The company is now testing technology to create the world's first ever "emissions-neutral" vehicle fleet.

The Challenge

According to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year roughly 47,000 people in Germany die from the effects of particulates, notably from vehicle emissions. Deutsche Post DHL Group operates around major German cities and wants to reduce its impact on air quality to improve societal health and reduce carbon emissions.

In 2017, Deutsche Post DHL Group set a goal which committed to achieving “zero-emission logistics” by the year 2050. This target goes beyond merely transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs), to fitting new transport with devices that can make them carbon neutral.

With the company’s chief executive Frank Appel publicly looking to create an emissions-free future that isn’t just a “Utopian vision” but a real possibility, Deutsche Post DHL Group was on the lookout for technological solutions that would not only improve the carbon performance of its fleet, but also the particulate performance.

The Solution

In December 2017, Deutsche Post DHL Group announced that it had combined an innovative EV with a fine dust particulate filter module to create the world’s first emission neutral vehicle.

Deutsche Post DHL Group currently has 5,000 StreetScooter vehicles in operation to help with the delivery of letter of parcels. These vehicles have already helped the company reduce carbon emissions by more than 16,000 tonnes each year. These vehicles cost between 60-80% less on maintenance and wear compared to traditional vehicles.

The StreetScooter EVs have covered 13.5 million kilometers, but despite the low-emission vehicles preventing considerable quantities of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide entering the environment, they, like all EVs, still release particulates into the atmosphere due to tire, brake and road abrasion.

StreetScooter drivers perform more than 300 braking and starting process daily, for more than 300 days a year. To improve the environmental performance of the vehicles, Deutsche Post DHL Group has partnered with filtrations firm MANN+HUMMEL, which specialises in solutions for vehicles, industrial applications, clean air interiors and sustainable water use.

The Ludwigsburg-based company achieved global sales of €3.5bn in 2016, but the new venture with Deutsche Post DHL Group will likely improve on this figure over the coming years. MANN+HUMMEL has developed a particulate filter which is being attached to five StreetScooter vehicles to immediately test its impact in five German cities. The filter retains as many dust particles that are produced from tire use, braking and road abrasion.

The system is equipped with blowers that direct ambient air to the filters. By placing the system on the underbody at the height of the rear axle of the vehicle loading space is not compromised and the filter has access to the area where highest concentration of particulates generated by the vehicle is located.

The Benefits

StreetScooters have already made an impressive dent in Deutsche Post DHL Group’s carbon emissions. The 3,700 StreetScooter WORK model vehicles and 1,300 WORK L models have reduced emissions by more than 16,000 tonnes of CO2.

By equipping the new filtration system, the vehicle is considered to be completely neutral regarding emissions. This means that no carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, noise or particulates are produced when the vehicle is in service.

Werner Spec, the mayor of Ludwigsburg, has already expressed his delight with the potential of solution – one of the vehicles will be in operation in his city. The city was awarded Germany’s most sustainable medium-sized city in 2014, and the new project, in the words of the mayor, is “a measure which is considerably more effective and clever than a driving ban”.

All the filters are fitted with sensors that enable online monitoring to ensure the efficiency of the systems, MANN+HUMMEL records this information – such as the amount of air that has been cleaned and the concentration of particulates – and can visualise it via a web interface to be evaluated by experts.

The Future

If the test trials are successful, Deutsche Post DHL Group and MANN+HUMMEL are willing to install the filters across all 5,000 StreetScooter variants. This would make the vehicle – which was designed by Deutsche Post DHL Group subsidiaries – the first car series free of emissions.

However, MANN+HUMMEL’s chief executive Alfred Weber has warned that policy makers need to overhaul current legislation so that developer creativity isn’t stifled.

“The coming together of the biggest logistics provider, the biggest producer of electric commercial vehicles in Germany and the global filtration expert has made driving and delivery operations possible in city centers which is neutral in terms of emissions,” Weber added.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie