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What Do Final Mile Trends Mean for Equipment and Maintenance Managers?

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THIS SITE Click Here To Read Entire Article

As urban centers increasingly battle problems with pollution and congestion while e-commerce grows by leaps and bounds, we’ll see changing technologies in last-mile logistics – and changing maintenance challenges.

March 2018, TruckingInfo.com – Feature

by Deborah Lockridge – Also by this author

Mercedes Benz vans has developed potential logistics concepts involving electric vans, robots, drones, and smart autonomous loading systems. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

As urban centers increasingly battle problems with pollution and congestion while e-commerce grows by leaps and bounds, we’ll see changing technologies in last-mile logistics – and changing maintenance challenges.

In a session at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting in Atlanta, panelists explored the issue of last-mile delivery trends.

Nick Tempelhoff shared a possible future vision developed by Mercedes-Benz vans, starting with smart, autonomous loading systems, and using drones and small wheeled robots that would deploy from a “mothership” van – one powered by electricity.

In fact, much of the session centered around electric-powered last-mile delivery vehicles, either full battery electric or hybrids.

“The writing is on the wall” for alternative powered vehicles in last-mile delivery, said Mike Hasinec of Penske Truck Leasing. “When you look at the routes, at the stop density, the infrastructure is very feasible.”

Already, he said, technologies such as compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, hybrid and some electric vehicles are in operation. “However, the population is very small and has remained so for many years,” because they are mostly in niche application such as buses and small delivery trucks. OEMs have not heavily pursued alternative power vehicle production, he said, and customers aren’t necessarily willing to buy these vehicles in large numbers, so there are few economies of scale to be had. Leasing companies such as Penske have been able to invest in larger numbers and provide these technologies to fleets.

Tim Dollmeyer, director of technology and engineering for Cummins Electrified Power, showed slides of various hybrid and electric vehicles from the past decade or so – most of which are no longer around. It took government incentives to help develop and deploy them.

“Something different is happening now,” he said. “The change is really coming from the needs of the urban areas, this is where the bulk of last-mile activity happens.” City governments, he said, are increasingly putting into place policies and regulations to address problems with congestion, air quality, and noise pollution, creating a demand for these technologies. At the same time, he said, “we are seeing that the economics are starting to be positive in some applications.” That’s already happening for urban buses, and should be the case for medium-duty delivery vehicles by early in the next decade.

Charging is a big challenge, Dollmeyer noted. Without extensive electric charging infrastructure, “it’s a lot harder to carry the energy with you that you’d like to have.” Fast-charging systems can reduce battery life. There’s no standard for charging connections. And there are real estate challenges.

“We’ve got to actually charge these things, and it’s going to have a big and varied impact on our ability to deploy these things,” Dollmeyer said as an example. While commercial vehicles consume between 0.8 and 2.5 kWh per mile, their batteries are expected to store between 50 and 500 kWh.

The charging needs alone will affect the layouts of shops and fleet yards. “The vehicles actually need to sit by the charger, and quite often the electricity and the available charging isn’t in the same spot,” Dollmeyer explained. To compound matters, there are already four different styles of connectors for the vehicles, and they are not all compatible with one

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