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Sustainable fleet operations in the postal sector (RV of 2010/30/TOM/ISIC)

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Fleet optimization for postal operators (POs) is an important effort towards sustainable transportation in several ways. First, via its direct economic impact through investment, amortization and operating costs; second, its impact on the carbon footprint of the PO. While the evaluation of alternative fleet traction systems (e.g., fossil-fuel, hybrid and electric) is in many respects a relatively straightforward financial investment problem, there are additional complexities that make this an interesting research problem for sustainable energy. These include the uncertainties in market prices for various sources of energy, including emission credits for carbon leveraging of investments; the problem of infrastructure and support for new technologies; the intangible/reputation benefits of sustainable energy investments for POs; the problem of new technologies and learning effects; and, finally, the nature of strategic partnerships and risk sharing that may be needed to achieve the requisite scale of operations to make low-carbon vehicles a feasible alternative for major fleet operators and for the automotive industry. Taking these features into account, this paper describes a strategic framework for evaluating the possible transformation of postal fleet operations to hybrid or (pure) electric vehicles and presents initial results for this problem. The basic objective of any analytical approach to this problem is to provide a multi-year comparison of a well-defined benchmark case with an alternative electric or hybrid vehicle replenishment scenario, accounting for both cost and carbon impacts. As shown in Figure 1, this framework would naturally encompass demand estimates, as fundamental drivers of fleet use, along with scenarios reflecting trends in components contributing to capital costs, operating costs, and carbon “revenues”. The focal decisions are the speed of transition to low-carbon vehicles by location and route type, and the roll-out plans and threshold values for various phases of the replenishment.

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