Finance

Inner cities without dirty freight transport? Still a long, bumpy road to go

It’s all about zero-emission city logistics and it serves three purposes. City centers must remain accessible, the air must be cleaner, and CO2 emissions must be reduced in order to comply with the climate agreement, according to the policymakers.

26 municipalities have now decided to set up such a zero-emission zone, including large cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, but also smaller municipalities such as Assen, Ede and Gouda. This number is expected to increase further, to 30 to 40.

This poses major problems for any entrepreneur who has to be in such a city center for supplies from 2025. Should I buy a new delivery van or truck? And should that be an electric one or one that runs on hydrogen or a second-hand one that runs on petrol or diesel? Are zero-emission cars available at all? And how expensive are those?

From Lauwersoog to Utrecht

Jan Geertsema is such an entrepreneur. He fishes at Lauwersoog and sells his catch through his restaurant, to catering customers abroad and at the organic farmers’ markets in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

“Lauwersoog-Utrecht? 230 kilometers perhaps? So we are still doing that with a diesel,” says Geertsema, showing his dented Citroën. “You should never buy market buses new, because colleagues and so on…”

It is a EURO6 bus, so a relatively clean diesel, because it is not that Geertsema – a trained environmental scientist – does not think the climate is important. “We do everything electrically in our restaurant and at home.”

Batteries heavier than the fish

But electric is not an alternative for the transport of his fish. “I find it pointless and by definition unsustainable to have to carry 2,000 kilos of batteries as an extra charge to bring 1,000 kilos of fish to the market.”

Geertsema prefers to wait for a hydrogen bus, “but that from Volkswagen will only be on the market in 2025 and then it has to be tested in practice whether it is suitable for transporting refrigerated goods, my fish.”

Not a bus, but a boat

Contractor Van Zoelen already has a solution. The company opts for the boat more often. “In Utrecht you are not allowed on the quays with heavy trucks anyway, so we have containers with construction waste removed with electric boats,” says director Martin van Lambalgen.

He uses the services of Cityport of Utrecht for this. “That is still a start-up and requires the necessary planning. But if there is that emission-free zone, there could be a fixed timetable with fixed sailing times, and then it will all be even easier, also for the supply of building materials.”

“We do nothing differently than 2000 years ago. Then the Romans already started to supply Utrecht in this way, with boats. They brought in tuff stone with which the city was built. We will do the same soon, but with more modern ships, that is.” says Van Lambalgen.

Info with ‘a high lala content’

Geertsema is by no means the only entrepreneur who is having doubts. If entrepreneurs even know that the zero-emission zones are coming. “The information about this is now much too snappy and has a high lala content,” says Marco Wiesehahn, policy secretary for mobility and logistics at MKB Nederland.

He calls for an extensive information campaign by the government. “Because this affects not only retail distribution and parcel delivery, but also many small businesses: gardeners, painters, greengrocers, market vendors,” says Wiesehahn.

600 million needed

According to Wiesehahn, there are 250,000 to 400,000 of these small entrepreneurs who sometimes have to be in a city center. If they all have to have an emission-free delivery van, then a subsidy pot of 600 million euros will soon be needed, he calculates. “Up to 2025, 185 million euros are available. But that is not enough, because delivery vans will still have to be replaced after 2025.”

Transitional arrangements

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has so far assumed lower numbers. From unnoticed answers to parliamentary questions and a research report by Panteia, it appears that at least 115,000 delivery vans and 11,676 lorries need to be replaced.

There are subsidy schemes, but they run until 2025, the exact moment when the zero-emission zones are introduced. However, the high demand for replacement transport is expected in subsequent years, because there are transitional arrangements.

These transitional arrangements mean that you can enter the city center with some delivery vans, so-called EURO6 models, until 2028. A transition period applies to trucks until 2030. However, there are no subsidy schemes for the period 2025-2030.

The sector organizations hope for more subsidies and the research report commissioned by the ministry underlines the need. “The challenge of zero-emission urban distribution is so great,” the researchers note, that in addition to a subsidy pot of “approximately EUR 200 million per year” (for the replacement of trucks alone), “broad involvement and cooperation between all stakeholders is essential. .”

More trucks

For example, sufficient emission-free trucks must be produced, because there are hardly any. The charging infrastructure must also be adapted to enable rapid charging of the vehicles. Banks must enable entrepreneurs to make the necessary investments. And insurers must want to insure the fleet and the necessary infrastructure.

At Transport & Logistiek Nederland they know the report. “It confirms that the government must intervene and get to work now,” says director Jan Boeve. “To be able to supply cities emission-free in the future, transporters need two things: enough subsidy and electricity. But there is a lack of both.

“We need a new cabinet that takes our sustainability challenge seriously and immediately stimulates entrepreneurs to make the transition. Because time is really running out and they cannot do this alone,” says Boeve.

Caretaker cabinet

The current caretaker government seems to be aware of all the problems. In any case, by the middle of next year, it wants to have ‘more insight’ into the speed at which electric delivery vans are flowing in and “possibly take appropriate measures to be able to achieve an acceleration in that influx.” An additional subsidy scheme for trucks is being prepared.

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