Empowering Groningen shopkeepers: The ULaaDS platform for sustainable vehicle sharing


ULaaDS sets out to offer a new approach to system innovation in urban logistics. Its vision is to develop sustainable and liveable cities through re-localisation of logistics activities and reconfiguration of freight flows at different scales. Specifically, ULaaDS proposes a combination of innovative technology solutions (vehicles, equipment and infrastructure), new schemes for horizontal collaboration (driven by the sharing economy) and policy measures and interventions as catalysers of a systemic change in urban and peri-urban service infrastructure. This aims to support cities in the path of integrating sustainable and cooperative logistics systems into their sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs).

ULaaDS will deliver a novel framework to support urban logistics planning aligning industry, market and government needs, following an intensive multi-stakeholder collaboration process. This will create favourable conditions for the private sector to adopt sustainable principles for urban logistics, while enhancing cities’ adaptive capacity to respond to rapidly changing needs. The project findings will be translated into open decision support tools and guidelines.

KEY ACTIVITIES: A success story

Within ULaaDS, the city of Groningen has been exploring measures to accelerate the transition to zero emission logistics. In one of its trials, the city has collaborated with the Groningen City Club (also partner in ULaaDS) to offer solutions for sustainable logistics to local shopkeepers. During the trial set-up stages, assisting local shopkeepers in meeting the future regulatory frameworks of the city of Groningen emerged as a key need in the framework of ULaaDS.

Groningen extended the geographical zone to which time-access restriction apply in 2022 — and that zone is also designated to become a zero-emission zone by 2025. In between 2022 and 2025, parties entering the city can get a waiver for the time-access restriction, allowing them to enter also outside the time window, if they use a zero-emission vehicle. While concerns about the lack of availability and higher total cost of ownership are being alleviated due to changes in the market—especially for smaller-sized vehicles—many local shopkeepers would not be able to invest in a new vehicle themselves. This would have hampered their access to the city in which they operate. What is more, local authorities saw an opportunity to limit the number of vehicles used in the city. Combined, these observations led to a trial design where the focus is on rolling out a platform where local shopkeepers can organize using shared electric vehicles.

This resulted in a pilot where three categories of vehicles can be booked online in a vehicle sharing platform, thus offering shop keepers in the city centre of Groningen the possibility use more sustainable logistics options without having to face the costs of investing in the purchase of new vehicles themselves. The three different vehicles available are: a cargo bike (i.e., Urban Arrow L), a light electric freight vehicle (i.e., a Carver Cargo), and an electric van (i.e., Volkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo). Shopkeepers can make a reservation via an app, and use the vehicle to, for example, deliver goods to consumers in and around the city or operate a regional route, aimed at picking up goods supplying their shop.

The platform has been helping shopkeepers manage the ambitious regulatory framework of the city of Groningen. It also strengthened the collaboration between the city and the Groningen City Club and its members, increasing the chances for joint initiatives in the future.

Thanks to the pilot, the owner of a local shop called Stadsakker has even decided to get rid of the diesel van.

“We had been thinking about this for a while, but ULaaDS made us finally decide to say goodbye to the old van”

Merlijn Albering Local shop owner

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