Experts on charging for the logistics sector

By 2030, all new cars must be zero-emission. The logistics sector will also be making the switch from fossil fuels to electric power. But this transition will only be possible if policy is made now, and implemented, to create a charging infrastructure that works well for the sector. How are the plans progressing and what are the obstacles? The international Future of Charging symposium in March 2020 provided valuable insights.

Infrastructure for the logistics sector is still in its infancy. Within the National Agenda for Charging Infrastructure (NAL), there is a separate ‘Charging for Logistics’ working group in which parties from the logistics sector and the world of charging infrastructure are working together.

Joris Knigge is a programme developer for sustainability and ‘smartening’ at TKI Dinalog, a consortium in which industry, universities, research institutes and government are working on the innovation programme for Top Sector Logistics. A lot of progress is already being made, he says. ‘The market is developing, but it hasn’t crystallised yet. During the creation of the charging infrastructure for private cars, the stakeholders already established their roles. However, that doesn’t mean that this market can be copied. Charging in the logistics sector calls for a different approach.’

Commercial charging requires a different approach
The need for a different approach in the logistics sector is partly due to its diversity. Logistics includes everything from a fitter with a van or a deliverer with an internet order to a lorry supplying the catering industry or a truck delivering building materials. Most companies will charge their vehicles as much as possible on their own site; trucks in particular will mainly be charged in depots. But there will also be a need for charging in public space, for example for fitters or deliverers who park their vans in the street at night. In addition, there will also be a demand for charging facilities en route. Such semi-public solutions already exist in the form of the FastNed, PitPoint or Allego fast charging sites, for example, and other providers along the road at petrol stations or service areas.

Charging a lot of vans or trucks at the same time makes new demands of charging infrastructure. It means, for example, that charging facilities need to have extra capacity available, not only in roadside service areas, but also in cities.

What are the charging needs of the logistics sector?
According to Walther Ploos van Amstel, lecturer in City logistics at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, it is important to gain insight into the charging needs of the logistics sector to develop a charging infrastructure that functions well for everyone. Research on traffic flow in Amsterdam has shown that 90 percent of all journeys are made by vehicles belonging to companies from outside the city. This means that these vehicles need charging options not only in Amsterdam, but also elsewhere. Ploos van Amstel anticipates that planners from surrounding towns and cities, such as Haarlem, Zaandam and Amstelveen, will also have to take account of the need for extra charging infrastructure for the sector. Cooperation is essential. It might be achieved by incorporating charging infrastructure in the Regional Energy Strategy (RES) and in the NAL regions. On the basis of the NAL, six regions for cooperation have been established, each of which establishes its own a Regional Approach to Charging Infrastructure.

Increasing demand
There are four locations in which the demand for charging options will increase:

  1. At the carrier’s home base
    This mainly means private charging options for which the property owner is responsible.
  2. Along main routes between major cities
    These may be private or public charging stations located at service areas and filling stations.
  3. At locations where vehicles are unloaded or work is carried out
    Partly based on national agreements from NAL logistics, shippers and carriers make agreements together on how carriers can charge vehicles on the premises of their customers, such as supermarkets or businesses in the catering industry which receive daily deliveries.
  4. At parking locations in residential areas
    Many commercial vehicle owners need to be able to charge their electric vehicle (EV) overnight, ready for the next working day. Especially for electric delivery vans, it is practical to charge in residential areas (at charging hubs or in the street).

Charging scenarios and wishes
But how will all these vehicles continue their journeys through cities? Various charging scenarios are possible. Some carriers’ vehicles might be able to get through an entire day on a single charge, while other carriers will need sufficient options to recharge their vehicles between deliveries. Whether vehicles will need to recharge during the day and how much partly depends on how EVs develop over the coming years. The larger the battery capacity, the fewer recharging stops will be needed. The choice of specific target groups, customers and routes for which the vehicle is used is also crucial. The challenge for municipalities and the sector is therefore to find applications in which current and future types of vehicles are best suited, and on this basis to develop a growth scenario.

The necessary experience and data regarding the way vehicles behave under different driving conditions is already available. Driving behaviour, for example, has a major effect on the amount of power a vehicle uses. There are rapid developments in the field of cost savings and range extension, but at this stage it is still unclear whether or how this will affect the sector’s charging requirements in 2030.

What about the costs?
In many cases, the transition to zero-emission transport will be expensive in the start-up phase due to the cost of purchasing an EV. According to various experts, at present this is preventing many small carriers from making their fleets electric. Yet it is already the case that for delivery vans, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is no longer significantly higher for EVs than for diesel vehicles. The operating costs are lower and are expected to continue to fall in future. This applies not only to delivery vans, but (from 2023) also to heavier EVs.

The market for electric trucks is changing
The development of electric trucks is still in its infancy. For a long time, manufacturers held back because they considered there was no demand. This has now changed, says Jeroen Baartmans of the zero-emission transport company BREYTNER. His business has passed the pilot phase, and has already been supplying customers for several years, in numbers that continue to grow. ‘We drive hundreds of kilometres a day,’ he says proudly. ‘In real life!’ Electric trucks are about three times more expensive to purchase than regular trucks, says Baartmans. This is changing, but the question is how quickly. There might be opportunities for new manufacturers, such as the Dutch company VDL. The firm has years of experience with manufacturing buses, and it applies the same construction techniques to trucks. Hans Bekkers, VDL’s Business Development Manager for Public Transport, says it is not hard for his company to make the switch from diesel to electric: ‘We buy in our engines, so it makes no difference to us whether they’re diesel or electric.’ Generally speaking, large manufacturers are unable to switch as quickly. This is where the opportunities for VDL lie, in collaboration with other parties.

Major players are now taking their first cautious steps in the market, and relative newcomers such as Tesla are also expected to be significant players. BREYTNER has already ordered Tesla’s new showpiece truck, the Semi, although it is unclear when the Rotterdam company can expect it to be delivered.

Pilot with electric trucks
The electric Green Last Mile (eGLM) project has now been launched in the logistics hotspots on the border between the Netherlands and Germany, transporting goods using seven converted 44-tonne electric trucks. Four trucks are currently operating in the area between Venlo and Duisburg, and the other three will hopefully come into use by the summer. The eGLM project aims to investigate and demonstrate the conditions under which it is possible to use EVs for heavy transport, and therefore focuses on heavy distribution over short legs of up to 150 kilometres. The trucks are built in Germany and are capable of fast charging. The major challenge is funding the project, says Rob Kroon of FIER Automotive, one of the parties involved in eGLM. In particular, the cost of ultra-fast chargers is still a stumbling block, Kroon says, as it can be as high as 200,000 euros. The project will also investigate how ultra-fast chargers can be installed as cheaply as possible. This is possible by using locations where the grid is already completed or is of a good standard; in such locations, the charging points can be realised at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, Kroon says, the necessary investments are still substantial, particularly in locations where there are currently no options for ultra-fast charging, but where they are necessary.

How do regulations help with the transition?
The role of government at national and local level is important in guiding the transition. While individuals are able to choose whether or not to switch to an EV, the transport sector does not have the choice, says Joris Knigge. ‘The sector is dependent on regulations. This can create a stable market and give businesses the little extra push they need to purchase EVs.’ Nienke Onnen of the environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu (Nature & Environment) sees another reason to steer the transition in the right direction through regulation. ‘The sector is conservative,’ she says. ‘There are many ways in which financial incentives can help stakeholders in setting up an interesting business model.’ Subsidies, in whatever form, would be a great help, just as they are with EVs for private individuals.

Besides subsidy, there is also another way in which regulation can promote the transition. A well-devised system of low-emission and zero-emission zones can contribute to a smooth and widely supported transition, says Walther Ploos van Amstel. ‘There are now zero-emission zones in four major cities. It works. But you need to look carefully at how you can develop this further. If the regulations are too strict, you will hit the transport sector too hard,’ he warns. Ploos van Amstel also notes that well-designed charging infrastructure, for example using charging hubs and smart charging, can save costs and is easier to achieve.

Good charging infrastructure starts with charging capacity
EV demand will increase significantly in all segments in the coming years. ‘Charging time is the magic word,’ says Hans Bekkers of VDL. ‘Good charging infrastructure starts with sufficient charging capacity. This is a matter not only for the sector, but also for the grid operators and the government.’ However, experts also consider a proactive attitude to be necessary in a wider context. New players in particular can claim a role. Ploos van Amstel, sees a future in the ‘vehicle as a service’ (VaaS) concept, for example, in which only mobility is important rather than car ownership. Governments can already respond to this by making technical possibilities available for the integration of intelligent traffic systems, for example, or the creation of so-called zero-emission corridors. Stakeholders should also be aware that a successful transition does not stop at the Dutch border; the Netherlands must cooperate with other European countries if it is to continue to realise its ambition as a frontrunner.

NKL and the NAL working group Charging for Logistics are currently working on a Roadmap and on Logistics Guidelines These will offer concrete tools for governments and other stakeholders to prepare for the transition to commercial EVs.

I would like to know more about charging for logistics
Please see the Q&A list (in Dutch) that NKL Nederland has created specially for municipalities. Or watch this video; experts tell what they think is needed to make the transition to electric power in the logistic sector.

I am interested in charging for logistics and/or already have experience with it. Can I contribute ideas?
Please do! You can register to participate in working group activities and/or for the working sessions relating to the guidelines and roadmap. The date will be announced shortly. If you would like to sign up or receive updates, please send an e-mail to

With thanks to the following logistics experts
Hans Bekkers – VDL Bus & Coach
Dr Walther Ploos van Amstel – professor of City Logistics at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
Nienke Onnen – Natuur & Milieu (Nature & Environment)
Joris Knigge -TKI Dinalog
Moderator: Dr Frank Rieck – professor of Future Mobility at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

Four tips for a successful transition according to experts

  1. Gain insight into the transport sector’s charging needs
    Look at the wishes of the sector. Urban developers shouldn’t only look at cities. Sufficient charging options are also needed outside of cities.
  2. Planning zero- and low-emission zones carefully
    The introduction of zero- and low-emission zones should not overwhelm the sector. With careful regulation and planning, emissions can still be reduced without the sector getting into difficulties. Moreover, good planning saves money in the construction of charging infrastructure.
  3. Work together on a successful transition
    The transition can only be successful if everyone cooperates. Everyone in the chain should be involved in the process, not forgetting the vehicle manufacturers. With strict and clear rules regarding zero-emission zones in cities, the Netherlands can become an interesting test market for vehicle manufacturers. The growth in charging infrastructure needs for logistics should be taken into consideration when more charging infrastructure is rolled out in municipalities.
  4. The Netherlands should continue to play a pioneering role
    In the past, the Netherlands has played a pioneering role in the transition to EV use. This is also necessary if the country is to achieve its stated ambition for clean cities by 2025. It is up to the government and all other parties involved to safeguard and strengthen the Netherlands’ position as a model country in the future.