So called ‘last-mile’ delivery is the final link in the chain of logistics that commercial goods must travel before reaching their destination: shops, restaurants, offices, or even private homes. Not only must it be environmentally friendly, but it must also help make cities enjoyable places to live.
EZ-FLEX: facilitating urban delivery
In 2019, Renault Group launched an experimental project to better understand the needs and expectations of service users – town halls, local government, companies – by working with a range of partners such as La Poste, the Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolitan Area, the Town Hall of Montpellier, and the company SEV (Services Ecusson Vert), to collect feedback from the field.
EZ-FLEX vehicle test runs were carried out in partnership with Renault Group and SEV for deliveries throughout the city centre as part of a wider urban logistics backdrop; the program helped create genuine dialogue between local government, logistics operator SEV, and business owners to co-construct the future of mobility and boost the image of the city centre as a means of further driving growth throughout the metropolitan area. It is part of the voluntarist policy of our metropole for a mobility shock in 2025, emphasizes Michael Delafosse, Mayor of Montpellier and President of Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolitan Area.
Tests were run using EZ-FLEX, an agile, compact, all-electric vehicle designed to ensure easy access to urban centres. Its 4.5m turning circle makes driving through narrow city streets a breeze.
Vehicles fitted with sensors to collect metrics on GPS data, mileage, range, door openings, speed, and stops were made available to professionals.
The vehicle’s ergonomics have been engineered down to the smallest detail. The extra-wide driver-seat access makes getting in and out a breeze – a key feature for drivers with numerous deliveries each day. Rear loading has been optimised thanks to a user-friendly sill height and doors that enable easy access to all areas of the storage area. Numerous rear modules were tested to cover the range of needs professional users may have.
Towards a full range of services
The initial test cycle will come to a head at the end of the year and provide Renault Group with precious insight that will inform development work on urban delivery vehicles in the future. The experimental phase has confirmed that users are interested in full-electric vehicles for a calmer and more relaxed driving experience – a feature widely appreciated by delivery drivers and city dwellers alike. In addition, users praised the vehicle’s compact size and handling with its extra-tight turning circle.
The much-appreciated large side openings that run the length of the rear storage area are hinge-less and free of any B-pillars thereby making the space easy to load and unload. Storage access is also made easier thanks to the small diameter wheels that make for a storage floor that sits 70cm high. Test were also carried out on a range of rear compartment floor heights for optimal ergonomics to make the jobs of delivery workers that much easier.
Tests were also carried out on different cockpit setups. Driver seat adjustments have been redesigned to make getting in and out much easier no matter what size the driver is. A hands-free card for opening and closing doors was introduced during the test phase so drivers don’t have to place packages on the ground. Special attention has been paid to safety: placement of the side-mirrors has been reworked and the base sections of the windscreen have been made vertical for improved visibility on urban roads. Lastly, given that drivers use the passenger-side exit 15% of the time depending on traffic, this has been made easier thanks to the flat floor and folding passenger seat. With the additional input from discussion held with strategic partners, these tests will help fuel Mobilize’s design work on Mobilize Hippo, the brand’s last-mile delivery vehicle.
Thought is currently being given to other test cycles, including ones looking at services. The second phase of tests will help Mobilize determines the range of offers it will offer professional clients in the future. Such offers will incorporate both vehicles and services specifically designed for last-mile delivery.
Jean-Christophe Labarre, Mobilize Director of Innovation, Strategic Partnerships, Mobility Services, comments that, Field tests help us grasp our customers’ actual needs. Information we receive from our partners help us design offers that are perfectly suited to our future customers, be it in terms of vehicles or the associated services.
The newest issues facing last-mile delivery
The World Economic Forum estimates that 60% of the global population will be urban by 2030. At the same time, consumer habits are changing – in 2023, 1/5 of all purchases will be online.
The main issue in the coming years will be to account for and consolidate expectations of all stakeholders:
- Customers/people: price, speed, flexible delivery solutions
- Business owners and companies: delivery costs, customer satisfaction
- Towns and cities: quality of living (reduce road congestion, CO2 emissions, and noise pollution, rethink urban planning, maintain a thriving economy)
- Transport and logistics companies: fast and easy access to the final destination (Low Emission Zones, parking, …), cost reduction, well-being of delivery workers