LoCITY is looking to step up support to the industry as it reaches its mid-way point, with more focused workstreams and enhanced interaction with operators engaged with the scheme.

Launched in January 2016,  LoCITY is a five-year programme to help commercial vehicle fleets prepare and comply with the Ultra Low Emission Zone coming into force next April.

However since its launch, “much has changed”, according to Christina Calderato, head of delivery planning at TfL, with the scheme evolving accordingly to keep pace with industry needs.

Speaking to delegates at the LoCITY annual conference earlier this month, Calderato said the scheme will now sit within the city planning function at TfL.

“The reason is that it is important to make it much closer to policy makers. To have that direct dialogue with the commercial sector, it helps us in developing our policies,” said Calderato.

More than 2,000 people are already engaged with the programme and its industry events and TfL is now looking to fine tune LoCITY for its next stage.

“Where next for LoCITY? It is an evolving programme – we’re two and half years in and we need to take a big step and think about what we can do next,” said Calderato.

She added: “Until now, most of the tools of support that we’ve had for LoCITY have been self-service. We’re going to start looking to see if there’s a more direct support we can offer people who might need it – are we able to come out and visit, and to do a bit more?”

At the conference, a new Facts and fiction website was launched to help operators better understand alternative fuel commercial vehicles.

It aims to answer any frequently asked questions about new vehicle technology, while dispelling commonly held myths.

Key themes

Also taking part in the annual conference was a range of industry speakers, who raised challenges to adopting cleaner vehicles as well as promoted best practice taking place.

Swedish retailer IKEA makes 5,000 deliveries per day in its 400-strong fleet, all of which is Euro-6.

It has set itself the challenge of 100% zero-emission deliveries by 2025, and is already undertaking trials of electric vehicles across the UK: these include a 7.5-tonne Paneltex in Sheffield, a Fuso eCanter in London and an  LDV in Exeter.

The company has developed a staggered approach for converting the fleet to fully zero emission. Priority is on London, with the rest of the country to follow.

Marcus Helliwell, sustainability developer for IKEA, urged large retailers to step up to challenge and take the lead in reducing emissions.

He said: “The bigger companies, the bigger retailers can do more. I really want to push for IKEA to work harder with this, as well as some of the bigger guys.”

Also trialling a range of fuels across its fleet was the City of London, which operates more than 250 vehicles.

Sarah Maxwell, transport technical officer for the City of London, said: "In our fleet we have anything from a lawnmower to a limousine, for the Lord Mayor.”

Electric tractors and plant are currently being trialled, alongside a Tesla and a 36-tonne all-electric RCV.

While the latter had an upfront cost of £300,000, Maxwell said maintenance costs were "drastically reduced".

It is presently working around Smithfield meat market daily, taking two hours to boost charge back to full power.

The City now has a no-diesel policy on future fleet procurement.

Maxwell said: “Everything purchased is put through a transport co-ordination group to see if there is an alternative fuel available.”

Pathway for HGVs

Presenting on the government's Road to Zero strategy, which wants all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2040, Phil Killingley, deputy head of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, said the long-term ambition was for all HGVs to follow suit.

"This may seem a long way off, but particularly over the past 12 months, there are new technologies out there that indicate that there is a pathway towards that goal," he said.

However, he conceded that the pathway to achieve this goal was less clear than for smaller vehicles, such as cars and vans.

Killingley acknowledged that the transport sector is “one that operates on relatively low margins”, understanding that solutions must make commercial as well as environmental sense.

A particular challenge was noted by Killingley, in regards to the size and costs of electric batteries for HGVs. Hydrogen, other synthetic fuels and range extenders were other ideas being explored.

By Kylie Noble and Hayley Pink