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Climate Action Roadmap

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Light commercial vehicles (LCVs)

The class of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) refers to vehicles that have a gross weight of under 3.5 tonnes. LCVs are used for more localised distribution within supply chains, and for deliveries to customer homes – both by retailer-owned fleets and by contracted couriers. 

Emissions profile

All LCVs – many of which are not used for freight and logistics – account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions and 23% of NOx from transport in the UK.[57]  As with HGVs, the key variables determining LCV emissions per km are consistent with those listed for HGVs (vehicle, weight, temperature control, driving and fuel), albeit operating at very different scales. 

For couriers, vehicle models and maintenance regimes are more variable because of the diversity of operators, which can include individual drivers delivering on contract using their own vehicles. With the rapid rise of online retail, the scale of these ‘last mile’ operations has increased markedly and is expected to continue to do so. Ecommerce sales spiked from 19% of total retail sales in February of 2020 to 33% in May.[58] This growth was due to lockdowns and temporary closures of brick-and-mortar stores brought on by COVID-19, but many predict that a significant share of previous in-person retail will move online for good.

Emissions are reported by retailers as scope 1 for all owned and operated fleets, and otherwise as scope 3 for contracted services.

Routes to decarbonisation for LCVs

Efficiency improvements exist such as optimised routing and load sharing, but major decarbonisation will come from transition away from fossil fuels to low carbon and electric vehicles, including bicycle and e-cycle deliveries for hyperlocal deliveries.

[57] Energy and environment: Data tables (2019). Department for Transport.
[58] Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (2020). Office for National Statistics.