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'CityMove' looks to future of urban freight

With the majority of the population in Europe now living in urban areas and the bulk of industrial production being dispatched to these areas, the demand for freight transport in cities is at an all-time high.

Delivery truck in narrow street © Peter Gutierrez
Freight delivery in Europe's
narrow city streets can be a challenge
© Peter Gutierrez

The urban environment features high population densities and high consumption of goods and services. Here, traffic infrastructure and the possibilities for its extension are limited, while deliveries tend to be made in small loads and in frequent trips, resulting in many vehicle kilometres.

"Today, most transport activities are taking place in our cities," says Volkswagen's Jürgen Leohold. "Around the globe, more and more people are leaving their rural areas and settling in urban zones. Here in Europe we are far ahead of many other parts of the world in this 'rural-to-urban' shift."

Integrating, coordinating, improving

One EU-funded project that is responding to changing living patterns is 'CityMove'external link. Launched in January 2010, the project is investigating integrated vehicle solutions for flexible, cleaner and more efficient goods transportation.

“Freight transport logistics has an essential urban dimension. Distribution in urban conurbations requires efficient interfaces between truck deliveries over longer distances and distribution to the final destination over shorter distances. In addition, the distribution process between production centres and customers inside an urban area needs to be efficient and clean… The development of these solutions requires the involvement of all stakeholders.”

From the European Commission's 2007Green Paper 'Towards a new culture for urban mobility'external link

"We are looking towards the future," affirms CityMove coordinator Gianfranco Burzio of Centro Ricerche Fiat. Speaking at a recent meeting organised by EUCARexternal link in Brussels, Burzio described a number of possible scenarios, including the use of modular vehicles. "We are thinking in terms of flexible designs involving chassis that can receive interchangeable load units or boxes. Obviously this kind of operation requires the best possible logistics systems to ensure the coordination of movements. We have to approach this problem in a holistic way, and that's exactly what we are doing."

Some of the issues being considered by CityMove:

EUCAR conference © Peter Gutierrez
CityMove was featured at the
EUCAR event in Brussels
© Peter Gutierrez
  • New vehicle architectures, with optimised layout to reduce congestion and facilitate movements in narrow city streets.
  • Compatible and interoperable vehicle bodies and goods containers.
  • Special attention to CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, in line with the Kyoto Protocol.

Also speaking at the EUCAR event, Leohold praised the work being undertaken by CityMove and similar EU research projects. "We cannot solve the problems of urban transport simply by putting more vehicles on the road," he said. "We have to consider a diversity of solutions, including improved conventional vehicles but also entirely new designs."