UPS is undertaking a series of delivery projects in major cities worldwide to tackle the congestion, air quality and logistical challenges associated with the increase of people moving to urban areas.

The global parcel firm’s latest corporate sustainability report said that today, half of the world’s population resides in urban areas, but by 2050, two-thirds of all people will make cities their home.

It added: “The result is overwhelming congestion, local air pollution, and demand for goods, creating logistical challenges that will need both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable solutions.”

UPS said it is already working with its customers, governments and local city planners to develop plans for intelligent transportation systems and pushing for smart mobility and more agile city infrastructures.

For example in London, which already operates both a congestion charge and low-emission zone in the city centre, UPS is working with the EU’s Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (FREVUE) project to transform its delivery network.

Part of this initiative has seen the parcel firms converting certain delivery trucks from diesel to electric power to eliminate tailpipe emissions. UPS is currently operating 28 electric vehicles in the capital, with 40 more planned in the next few years as it works towards its goal of running an all-electric fleet in London.

UPS also operates electric vehicles in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Hamburg.

In addition, the company will look to expand its UPS Access Point locations to drive down the need for individual home deliveries. These are central pick-up and drop-off points for parcels located at shops and petrol stations.

Final-mile consolidated deliveries are also a key focus for UPS as it looks to drive down vehicle miles. UPS said collaborating with local authorities and advocating standardised regulations among cities is essential to enable delivery firms to “innovate in the most efficient manner possible”.

The operator is working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Zero Emissions Cities project to promote global action to create low-carbon cities. It is also exploring the use of an electrically assisted tricycle called a Cargo Cruiser, which addresses both air quality and congestion concerns. It is designed to travel in and around pedestrian areas of a city by operating from a container that is brought into the centre once daily. The Cargo Cruiser concept has been tested in Hamburg, Germany (pictured) since 2013 and UPS hopes to expand this initiative to other cities by the end of 2015.