A research project aimed at driving down fuel emissions by encouraging home deliveries has been launched.

Three universities plus Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have combined forces to investigate how the environmental benefits of home deliveries can be improved, with a view to developing a town-scale trial.

Professor David Cebon, director at the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight in Cambridge, said the 18-month project would concentrate on last-mile and grocery deliveries.

Despite an explosion in home deliveries over the last few years, Cebon said take-up among consumers remained relatively small.

He said: “We want to understand how we can get best advantage in terms of reduced fuel consumption and emissions by encouraging home deliveries.

“The obvious point is that shopping trips by family car are inefficient from the point of view of fuel consumption. So, if we can take 15 shopping trips and put them all into a home delivery vehicle, it takes a lot out of the system.”

The project runs until November 2017.