DHL Express, the world’s leading provider of international shipping services, will reduce its fleet carbon emissions by installing solar panels on its US pickup and delivery trucks.

DHL will equip 67 of its medium and heavy-duty trucks with solar panel units from TRAILAR, a London-based solar transport technology manufacturer. TRAILAR retrofits existing commercial vehicles with ultra-thin solar “mats” applied to the roof. The mats are connected to TRAILAR’s Smart Charge Controller, which regulates the transfer of energy from the alternator and solar mats to the battery. Sensors collect data on fuel and emissions savings.

The technology is expected to reduce each vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 900 kilograms annually and lower both fuel and maintenance costs.

The solar system generates electricity from sunlight and will be used to charge the battery as well as power lift gates and other ancillary equipment. This reduces the load on the alternator and, as a result, fuel consumption. An integrated, state-of-the-art telematics system provides detailed information on the efficiency of the entire system through web-based reporting, including battery health, charging of ancillary equipment, overall fuel and emissions savings and more.

With continuous battery management via the TRAILAR Smart Charge Controller, solar energy is used to maintain battery levels at the most optimum level, even when the vehicle is off. This constant care of the battery and reduction in alternator wear has a direct impact in reducing overall vehicle maintenance costs.

This initiative is part of DHL’s Accelerated Roadmap to decarbonization announced last year, which committed DHL to interim measures on the way to its 2050 zero emissions target. The roadmap included a €7 billion investment in climate-neutral logistics such as zero-emission e- vehicle fleets, alternative aviation fuels and climate-neutral buildings between now and 2030.

Following a successful initial pilot program using nine Lightning Electric Ford Transit 350HD electric vans in the US late last year, DHL plans to deploy the remaining 89 electric vehicles this year in New York and California. The new electric vehicles are capable of achieving 26 km/Le, compared to 5.5 km/Le for similar gas-powered vans. They also include proprietary telematics and analytics software, which will aid with route optimization, driver training, and vehicle efficiencies. The new vans enhance an already robust alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) fleet for DHL Express in the US, which includes fully electric, hybrid-electric and clean diesel varieties – in addition to low-power electric-assist e-Cargo Cycles. DHL also began piloting four electric tractor-trailer vehicles in the Los Angeles market, to haul goods to and from the DHL LAX Gateway and local service centers.

DHL will also purchase 60 million euros worth of sustainable aviation fuel by mid-2022. The fuel will supply the DHL Express division at the UK’s East Midlands Airport and is expected to reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by 70,000 tons.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a low-carbon jet fuel made from renewable biomass and waste resources, including corn, algae, waste oils, agricultural and forestry residues, and solid + liquid waste streams. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, SAF can create new economic opportunities in farming communities and boost aircraft performance.

Commenting on the company’s climate work, DHL Express U.S. CEO Greg Hewitt stated:

“We’re aiming to improve the lives of people where they live and work, using cleaner pickup and delivery solutions – such as electric vehicles and cargo cycles, and now augmenting our truck fleet with this innovative solar solution. This is another strategic step in our drive forward to decarbonization, and over time reducing all logistics related emissions to net zero by 2050.”

Medium and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for about 7% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile in Australia, both Bunnings and Bevchain (which delivers beer brands owned by beverage giant Lion to pubs, clubs and bars) recently started trialling electric Fuso eCanters built by Daimler and contracted through Linfox.

CTI courses hosted by Ecoprofit

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Carbon Training International (CTI) offers courses that give clear direction to understand how to deal with climate change risk, including a comprehensive understanding of the term net zero.

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The good news: carbon emissions and business costs are linked. The more an organisation reduces its carbon emissions the more it reduces its costs.