Royal Mail micro electric vehicles

Royal Mail trials ‘micro’ EVs for letters and small parcels

Image credit: Royal Mail

In an effort to reduce its carbon emissions, Royal Mail is experimenting with two types of 'micro' electric vehicles (EVs) in a trial that will take place in several towns and cities over the next six months.

The vehicles are approximately the size of a quad bike or golf buggy and have been specially designed for routine deliveries of letters and small parcels. Despite their size, the vehicles can easily accommodate an average daily round’s worth of letters and smaller packages.

The EVs are charged using a standard three-pin plug.

They will be trialled in residential areas as a potential low-carbon alternative to larger vans. The EVs will be seen operating in Edinburgh, Crewe, Liverpool, London and Swindon.

“It’s really exciting to see these micro EVs making their way into our daily deliveries,” said Simon Thompson, CEO of Royal Mail. “We’re committed to keep on reducing our environmental impact and we intend to leave no stone unturned in trialling new technologies and new ways of delivering to help us do that.”

“As our fantastic posties make most deliveries on foot, this already means we have the lowest reported CO2 [emissions] per parcel of major UK delivery companies. From drones to EVs, fuel-efficient tyres to bio-CNG trucks, we’ll keep on innovating to reduce our environmental impact even further.”

In 2020-21 the average Royal Mail parcel generated 208g of CO2. Its carbon footprint increased 6 per cent compared with the previous year, in large part due to operational measures associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Royal Mail is aiming to have a net-zero carbon business by 2050, in line with the decarbonisation targets set by the Paris Agreement. In the short term, this effort will be focused on efficiency across its fleet, decarbonisation of fuels, and its property estate.

Among other efforts, Royal Mail engineers are exploring use of solar panels to decarbonise and reduce maintenance for its vehicles. By fitting these to the roofs of vans and HGVs, they can charge batteries to drive the alternator instead of the engine; Royal Mail says that this trial has been a success so far, reducing breakdowns, and it plans to expand the technology.

Other Royal Mail trials to reduce emissions associated with transport include a trial of electric tricycles ('e-Trikes') powered by a combination of solar, battery, and the rider’s pedalling. These EVs were, like the new micro EVs, intended for delivery of letters and small parcels. The e-Trikes do not appear to have been adopted following their 2019 trial. It is also reaching the end of a trial of a dual-fuel van in Aberdeen, which will determine if hydrogen-powered vehicles are operationally suitable for its fleet.

The company has also experimented with autonomous and out-of-sight drone delivery of healthcare equipment to the Isles of Scilly.

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