Delivery and logistics companies have begun to test newer forms of delivery vehicles under real-world conditions in recent years. Technologies include delivery drones that can fly lightweight packages to consumers and ground based delivery robots. These newer delivery technologies have great potential to improve delivery efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from delivery transport which is especially important considering the scale of delivery activity. For example, in 2018 87 billion parcels were delivered.
To estimate energy consumption and carbon emissions from these newer delivery vehicles, researchers from Portland State University developed a series of continuous approximation (CA) models for different types of new delivery technologies. CA modeling is a technique frequently used for modeling complex logistical networks.
To build these models the researchers first gathered operational and performance data on delivery drones, electric delivery vans, and various types of autonomous ground-based delivery robots from publicly available manufacturer data. Next, the researchers gathered data about energy consumption and range information again from publicly available manufacturer information. Then, researchers gathered data on operational constraints for autonomous vehicles using previous studies. Finally, researchers used these data to build out a series of CA models that estimated energy consumption and net carbon emissions under different operational scenarios.
Newer delivery technologies have "vast potential to reduce" CO2 emissions from delivery transport. Autonomous delivery vehicles emit, on average, 98 percent less CO2 than conventional delivery vehicles. However, most of this reduction comes from electrification rather autonomy per se.