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USA’s 1st Zero-Emissions Delivery Zone Is In Santa Monica, California

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The City of Santa Monica has decided to be a leader in US electrification efforts, marking its ground as the first city in the country to implement a zero-emissions delivery zone (ZEDZ). This is being done with the support of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), Nissan, IKEA, Shopify, Freewire, Motiv Power Systems, and many others.

Notably, though, this is a voluntary zone — not London’s type of system that charges people hefty fines for driving into the area without a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV). Though, the program leaders have partnered with tech companies, delivery companies, and community organizations to truly make this a reality. 

“The concept for the Santa Monica ZE Delivery Zone was generated by LACI’s Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP),” LACI writes. “TEP includes local government officials, utilities, state regulators, automakers, industry leaders, labor, and startups working together to reduce air pollution in the greater Los Angeles region by accelerating transportation electrification and zero emissions goods movement in advance of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

This niche focus on super quick (immediate) electrification of delivery vehicles is interesting and timely on a few levels. First of all, delivery vehicles do travel more miles — and the more miles a driver or vehicle drives, the more the low operational cost of an EV come back to the owner in the form of savings and profits. Also, while there is a lot of driving, delivery vehicles know their service area, if not specific regular routes, and can quite easily plan for charging and work it into their habits. Thirdly, in this covid era and most likely in the post-covid era, people are turning to delivered goods and food much more. So, the emissions impact of delivery vehicles is higher, while the benefit from going 100% electric for deliveries is greater.

Foodcycle delivery van, courtesy LACI.

“With the explosion of last mile delivery of goods and food during the pandemic, the zero-emissions delivery zone in Santa Monica will help us both advance policy and technology solutions needed to reduce air & climate pollution, noise, and congestion while creating a blueprint for other cities to follow,” said Matt Petersen, CEO of LACI and Chair of TEP. “In addition to helping advance the bold goals of the Transportation Electrification Partnership, the pilot will also help unlock innovation from startup entrepreneurs, strengthen local small businesses, and grow the green workforce.”

Indeed — this can and should be used as an example for policies or programs in cities around California, around the country, and even around the world. Much inspiration and action can be triggered by this one small city. Also, while it’s not the powerhouse of LA County itself, if delivery companies know they have to be electric to go into Santa Monica, that will also clearly lead to them delivery with ZEVs elsewhere in the region. Again, they may also more quickly realize the operational savings from ZEVs mean that they should electrify everywhere.

“To reduce and ultimately eliminate our carbon emissions, we need to look at all aspects of the transportation sector. This pilot with LACI will use smaller and cleaner technologies to deliver goods instead of the large diesel-fueled trucks we’re used to seeing on our streets,” said Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “Beyond reducing carbon and congestion, the added bonus is that restaurants can keep higher margins of sales on delivered food items. This is coming at a critical moment in our recovery and we look forward to new insights on zero-emissions delivery and the possibilities beyond our one square mile test zone.”

Rollo last-mile electric delivery vehicle, courtesy LACI.

Naturally, this program also provides a boost for early movers in the electric delivery vehicle market, like Nissan, which has long sold one of the most popular electric vans on the market (perhaps the most popular). The opportunity didn’t slide past Nissan.

“As Nissan accelerates our journey to carbon neutrality, we are proud to build on our partnership with LACI to support Zero Emissions Delivery Zone pilots. This pilot comes at a critical time as delivery service continues to increase,” said Rachel Nguyen, Director of Nissan Future Lab and a TEP Member. “With the Zero Emissions Delivery Zone we will support local businesses and further our shared goal of reducing air pollution, GHG emissions, and improving safety.”

If you’ve been reading CleanTechnica for a long time, then you know one retailer that has often led the world in greener policies and cleantech adoption has been IKEA. So, it is unsurprising (yet still inspiring), that the international retail giant is also onboard and supportive from the start. “At IKEA, we believe in a zero-emission transportation future. The Santa Monica ZEDZ pilot program will offer an opportunity to showcase the demand for zero-emissions delivery, and serve as an example to other retailers and cities looking for a model to replicate. Groundbreaking solutions begin with a simple idea, and we are excited to showcase these solutions with this pilot program,” said Steve Moelk from the Ikea Group. (Emphasis added.)

Kiwi robot electric vehicle in Santa Monica, courtesy LACI.

Many more comments on the new program from a wide range of supportive parties can be found here. But here’s a list of some of the supporting companies: 

Those companies will “voluntarily deploy and test zero emission modes for last mile delivery in Santa Monica’s Downtown, Main Street and Ocean Park neighborhoods.” A handful of LACI-supported startups will help with the tech side of the program:

And then there are outside tech leaders who are participating:


But wait — how exactly does this voluntary ZEDZ work? Let’s let the originators of the idea, LACI, explain: “To support the current pilot participants and encourage others to join, the ZE Delivery Zone will provide priority curb access for zero emission delivery vehicles in select loading areas in the zone. Technology from Automotus will: monitor and analyze all vehicle activity in each curb zone while protecting privacy; collecting anonymized data for studying impact on delivery efficiency, safety, congestion, and emissions; and making real-time parking availability data available to ZE Delivery Zone drivers. …

“To achieve the Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap targets, LACI and TEP members – of which Santa Monica & Nissan are members – have advocated for policies such as zero-emissions zones, congestion pricing, & reducing vehicle miles traveled. To help reach these targets the Santa Monica ZE Delivery Zone will:

  • Advance emissions reductions policies and tools:  With growing diesel emissions from last-mile delivery vehicles as well as heavy duty drayage trucks moving the goods from ports to warehouses, the zone will provide insights for other cities, regulators, and industry leaders for zero emissions zones & reducing long-term exposure to pollution.
  • Pilot curb management solutions: With up to 20 zero emission loading priority curb areas in the most congested core of the zone, zero emission delivery use, congestion, safety, dwell time and other metrics will inform future deployments of zero emissions zones and congestion pricing in Los Angeles and other urban centers.
  • Demonstrate technology innovations: By deploying and demonstrating technologies needed for zero emissions delivery zones, Santa Monica and LACI will explore how best to meet operational needs, create local green jobs, and improve quality of life. Innovations will include:
    • Multiple electric micromobility solutions or food and parcel delivery;
    • Medium-duty and light-duty electric delivery vehicles for goods; and
    • First-in-the-nation commercial medium-duty electric truck- sharing & charging available for local small businesses. …

“LACI and TEP issued an RFI for communities and neighborhoods across the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Santa Monica was selected as the Zero Emissions Delivery Zone partner. Over the last year, LACI staff and TEP (of which the City of Santa Monica is a member) worked with businesses, community groups, and other partners to develop the zone. The zone is a one-square-mile area in the commercial activity core of Santa Monica. The zone is roughly bound by Wilshire Blvd on the north, Lincoln Blvd on the east, Dewey Street (City boundary) on the south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The zone covers ZIP codes 90401, 90405, and 90403 and is home to 15,850 residents, and two primary commercial districts — Downtown Santa Monica (including Third Street Promenade) and Main Street — that together employ roughly 28,900 workers in a wide range of industries. These areas welcome millions of annual visitors, and are hubs of commercial, social and institutional activity, providing the perfect showcase for cities across the nation on how to adopt a zero emissions delivery zone. Learn more at https://laci.org/zedz

All images courtesy of LACI.


 

 


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