This is what green deliveries look like

DPD’s Mandy Hamilton reveals the company’s plans to electrify UK deliveries and ‘plant trees for EVs’

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 3 September 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our Electric Nation EV special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Carbon neutral since 2012, DPD has long understood the need to go green – but in the last three years the delivery company has gone further than anyone to create the UK’s cleanest, greenest delivery service.

By implementing a series of industry firsts and innovative initiatives, DPD has not only directly reduced its own vehicle emissions but also worked collaboratively to contribute to wider issues such as air quality monitoring and the circular economy.

The 25-25-25 Green Vision

DPD has committed to all-electric deliveries in 25 cities by the end of 2025, 10 of which will be completed by the end of 2021.

This vision will deliver 42,000 tonnes of CO2 savings – the equivalent of planting 170,000 trees.

The 25 cities set to get all-electric deliveries are Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton and Stoke.

Green deliveries in Oxford

In July 2021 DPD launched its all-electric delivery service in the city of Oxford; it is believed to be the first initiative of its kind in any UK city.

The plan to provide all-electric deliveries in the city of Oxford began over 12 months ago with the building of a new Bicester Distribution Centre (DC), which opened in June 2021.

This is DPD’s first ‘net-zero carbon in construction’ building; it uses low-energy and zero-carbon design principles and includes 30 electric vehicle charging points.

The new facility, with its larger electric vehicle fleet, enabled DPD to go live with its first ‘green city’, served entirely by all-electric delivery vehicles.

The opening of the new DC was timed to coincide with the launch of Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone, and signals DPD’s willingness to support local authorities’ green city plans.

The 25-25-25 strategy requires a significant investment; £111m is needed just to convert to an all-electric fleet in the 25 cities. However, DPD is fully committed to all-electric DPD deliveries in the remaining 24 cities by 2025.

The journey to electric

Electric vehicles (EVs) are typically 40% more expensive than their diesel equivalents, but the drive to become an all-electric delivery company has issues beyond just cost.

Supply of suitable last-mile all-electric delivery vehicles is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges that companies face.

DPD now has over 1,000 all-electric vehicles on the road, delivering every day. This is a massive increase – from just 149 vehicles at the start of 2020 – that has required an innovative approach.

DPD was the first company in Europe to order from SAIC Motor, the largest EV carmaker in China. The fleet now boasts 500 of the Maxus 3.5t long wheelbase vehicles and 250 of the Maxus e Deliver 3 vans. These replace diesel vans and their arrival was key to DPD’s all-electric delivery in Oxford.

DPD has also invested in micro-vehicles from specialist Norwegian manufacturer Paxster; it was the first company to import this last-mile vehicle, which delivers parcels in the area immediately surrounding DPD’s London micro-depots.

DPD has also assisted with the development of the EAV cargo bike, the only delivery vehicle in the world that is simultaneously suitable for pedestrian zones, roads and cycle lanes and can make 135 stops a day – the same volume as a 3.5t city-centre diesel vehicle.

Monitoring air quality

Clean air is a basic human need, which is why DPD is doing everything it can to help improve air quality in our cities – starting with decarbonising its fleet.

At the same time, DPD is helping to build awareness around the issue of clean air.

Following a successful trial in London in 2020, earlier this year DPD announced the roll-out of a major new air quality monitoring programme across six of the UK’s biggest cities.

Mobile pollution sensors are fitted to the roof of delivery vehicles and DPD Pickup shops; they take readings every 12 seconds to monitor pollution at street level.

The sensors measure the fine particles PM2.5, which are one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. They lodge deep in lung tissue and are linked to many diseases including cancer and asthma.

DPD now has over 400 sensors delivering 1.5 million readings daily, providing real-time data that help visualise air quality issues and identify hotspots.

This information is available free of charge for anyone to view, but DPD is also working with local authorities, such as the team behind the Birmingham Clean Air Zone as well as other key stakeholders and academics, so that the data can help to inform further research and local decision-making.

Tyres that help combat pollution

DPD’s whole approach to sustainability is about joining the dots and working with like-minded innovators to help solve big challenges like air pollution.

Through DPD’s involvement with London FreightLab, the team got to know electric vehicle tyre company ENSO.

Traditional tyres are made mostly from fossil fuels that emit more air pollution than exhaust pipes as they wear down. Tyre particulate matter (PM) pollution makes up 28% of all primary ocean microplastics.

New tyres for EVs

Tyre pollution is an even bigger problem for EVs; their increased weight and torque wears tyres faster, meaning EVs often emit more tyre PM pollution than standard vehicles.

DPD is joining forces with ENSO to conduct full road trials of an innovative new tyre for commercial EVs, which is designed to reduce air and microplastic pollution.

Be a DPD Eco Superhero

DPD has developed an app that allows shoppers to take full control of their deliveries. The app also highlights when a delivery is being made on an all-electric vehicle; when 50 of those deliveries have been made, DPD will plant a tree on the customer’s behalf.

DPD is encouraging all shoppers to join the 10 million people who have already downloaded the app and to take the first step towards becoming a ‘DPD Eco Superhero’.

Funding restoration

DPD’s circular economy initiatives – including recycling wooden pallets and plastic shrink wrap – have helped fund a range of green projects.

Perhaps one of the most impactful has been the planting of 79,000 trees at Wareham Forest – much of which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – following a devastating fire in 2020.

Anyone can apply for a grant from the Eco Fund via the DPD Green website (see below); in just over a year, DPD has donated £220,000 to community groups, educational facilities and startup companies to fund green, ecological or sustainable projects that benefit the environment.

Collecting pre-loved clothes

DPD’s Eco Fund sits alongside other initiatives like ReLOVE which, in partnership with clothing company ASOS, sees DPD drivers collect pre-loved clothing on the doorstep and deliver it to one of five leading UK charities, free of charge.

It’s all part of the company’s wider drive to go the extra mile when it comes to delivering a clean, green service.

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