The Crisis is Permanent - but Not Acting is Not an Option
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For me, the event in Berlin is particularly exciting although I'm not actually at home in the commercial vehicle sector. The importance of the commercial vehicle sector is clearly demonstrated by the fact that these cause around one third of the CO2 emissions of the entire transport sector in Germany. Therefore, if we want to succeed in reducing our greenhouse gasses by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and 88 percent by 2040 in Germany alone, the commercial vehicle sector is particularly in demand. Martin Schmied, Head of Department I "Environmental Planning and Sustainability Strategies" at the Federal Environment Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt) explains in his keynote: “more than 55 million tons of CO2 are caused by freight transport in Germany alone.” And logistics is so much more than just freight transport: In addition, there is international traffic, air traffic, electricity and fuel production, and warehouse operations including buildings. Therefore, change is required: there are huge demands on transport and logistics companies with a view to climate protection.

The event, organized by Dekra and ETM Verlag, brings together top-class experts from the vehicle and supplier industry, the transport and logistics sector, politics and science. Since its first edition in 2015, the event has established itself as the central platform of the commercial vehicle industry in Germany. More than 350 experts, scientists and top managers are here today. Needless to say, the event and the accompanying trade exhibition provide the perfect networking opportunity for me too.

Hartmut Höppner, Staatssekretär of the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport talked about cllimate-friendly commercial transport opportunities. “In Germany, we expect freight traffic to grow by 46% by 2025 and we expect this to include an increase of up to 54% of traffic with trucks.”

The market ramp-up of climate-friendly commercial vehicles is therefore an important step in establishing sustainable, environmentally friendly mobility. The main message on this first day: Climate protection is needed now, time is pressing. The later the reduction of greenhouse gasses is taking place, the greater the reduction per year must be. The consequence: Every year we do nothing, we have to do more afterwards.

And for those parties questioning the need for Germany to do something, Martin Schmied from Germany’s Federal Environment Agency has a straightforward answer: “We have a historical responsibility in Germany, as we have been responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide between 1750 and 2021.” No chance to duck away as some politicians in Germany want to make us believe.

How can we achieve these goals?

The first day provided lots of insights into how these goals could be achieved. The common answer: We need a bundle of instruments and measures for climate protection in transport. Hence I have collected a few of these here:

My personal highlight: the speech of North German entrepreneur Rolf Meyer about ‘Shaping the mobility turnaround - opportunities and challenges of a sustainable family business.’ The former CEO of the logistics company Meyer & Meyer (now managed in fourth generation) sympathetically provided personal insights into their projects on e-mobility, green hydrogen production and climate-friendly city logistics. He provided his learnings and placed an urgent call to actively participate in our goals for a maximum 1.5°C global warming.

His family’s  company originally providing ‘fashion logistics (from sheep to shop - how good is this expression please) including a sustainable approach by inventing circular logistics with fashion distribution’. 11 years ago, the family business started with electric city logistics in Berlin. They worked on battery use cases to do net balancing with the batteries in their trucks, tried a battery swap system for them and worked on a mega charger with a fully automated fast charging system for electric trucks. Entrepreneurship at its best. Not everything worked. But the lessons learnt included that it needs a lot of goodwill to make things work and that the path from prototype to mass production is a hard one.

Jens Zeller, Managing Director, idem telematics GmbH gave insights into the future, which in his view is happening right now. He quoted from a recent McKinsey study checking out the current investments in the commercial mobility industry. Here 95% of investments go into startups. Investment in new logistics companies almost doubled in one year from 12.6 Bn to 24.6Bn USD. And where are these investments happening?

Three main areas: Last mile solutions, exchange platforms and visibility solutions make up the bulk of the invests.

A highly interesting break-out session for me was a deep dive into the current last mile delivery standings of Hermes, one of Germany’s leading last mile solution providers. “The overall analysis of area structures, package volumes and technical possibilities is the basis for effective planning of electrification in the last mile,” says Marco Schlüter, Chief Operations Officer, Hermes Germany GmbH. His talk on ‘Zero emissions on the last mile’ showed what is already possible today and what the future could hold. My highlight: Hermes this year delivers over 1 million last-mile shipments with cargo bikes in Germany. Berlin, with its overall average traffic speed of a mere 7 km/h, cries out for the use of these cargo bikes, because they effectively are faster. However an overall functioning service infrastructure for e-cargobikes is lacking here so far in German cities.

Green Delivery by Hermes © Hermes Hamburg

So where do we go from here?

The conference in Berlin made crystal clear even on the first day: Climate protection requires a far-reaching transformation of our lives and economies. This can only be achieved by politicians, citizens and companies working together in a socially acceptable way. The commercial vehicle industry is fully aware about the transformation necessary for all participants: Every year that we lose, the more critical it becomes. But it has also shown that “with courage, perseverance and determination, nationwide zero-emission delivery is feasible.”