UPS Smart Electric Urban Logistics project

Claire Thompson-Sage, Sustainable Develoment Co-ordinator, UPSSession at EMEX with Claire Thompson-Sage, Sustainable Development Co-ordinator for UPS Ltd & Jonathan Bassett, Technology & Innovation Consultant for UK Power Networks Services on Thursday 28th November, 13:30  –  14:00 in the  Built Environment, Technology & Innovation Theatre.

UK Power Networks Services implemented new smart electric vehicle charging systems to power UPS’s central London delivery fleet for what is believed to be the first of its kind in the world on this scale.

A UPS led consortium has deployed a radical new charging technology in London that overcomes the challenge of simultaneously recharging an entire fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) without the need for the expensive upgrade to the power supply grid.

UPS Smart Electric Urban Logistics projectThe breakthrough signals the beginning of the end of a reliance upon traditional combustion engine powered vehicles by allowing UPS to increase the number of EVs operating from its central London site from the current limit of 65 to all 170 trucks based there. This major advance – believed to be the first time these systems have been deployed at this scale anywhere in the world – is the result of the ‘Smart Electric Urban Logistics (SEUL)’ project with UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership, with funding secured from the UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles.


UPS is a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight, facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business.

UPS is committed to operating more sustainably – for customers, the environment and the communities they serve around the world. As part of their sustainability strategy, UPS are growing their electric vehicle fleet at their central London depot in Kentish Town, London.


Freight electric vehicles, like those used by UPS, can use up to ten times as much power as a typical home when charging. This means that charging large numbers of trucks simultaneously puts significant demand on the depot’s electricity supply. Due to a capacity limitation on the local electricity network, the integration of more electric vehicles at the depot would require a significant network upgrade to ensure the demand could be met.

Our previous work on electric freight vehicles has shown that local grid infrastructure constraints are one of the main barriers to their large-scale uptake. We need to find smarter solutions to electric vehicle charging if we want to benefit from the significant air quality and environmental benefits these vehicles offer, and we believe this is such a solution. Tanja Dalle-Muenchmeyer, programme manager electric freight at Cross River Partnership

UPS identified that traditional network reinforcement was not a viable model for deploying more electric vehicles at its Kentish Town depot, and appointed UK Power Networks Services to design, deliver and operate a smart-grid solution. UPS’s requirements for the project were to allow the electrification of its 170-vehicle depot fleet whilst:

  • Avoiding network reinforcement
  • Ensuring business continuity
  • Deploying a future-proof solution
  • Being economical and sustainable

Approach and innovation

We undertook a feasibility study to investigate alternative options to network reinforcement technologies and solutions that would enable UPS to electrify their depot fleet without reinforcing the local network.

Our in-house Energy and Technology Consulting team, who are experienced in developing and implementing state-of-the-art power systems solutions, recommended the implementation of a smart grid system.

This trailblazing solution has enabled UPS to increase their electric vehicle fleet without upgrading their network connection, paving the way for future electrification of delivery vehicles in our cities. We are delighted to work with UPS and our other partners to design, deliver and operate this sustainable smart-grid solution. This project will deliver a huge impact on improving the air quality for Londoners and contribute to UPS’s legacy of sustainability. Ian Smyth of UK Power Networks Services

This solution comprises of an Active Network Management system that monitors the maximum demand required by the site and controls the vehicle charging, scheduling the charge during the evening ready for the following day’s delivery. An energy storage system was installed to optimise the power available for the whole site, which is particularly important during periods of high demand.

The scope of the project included:

  • Upgrade of the existing charge posts on site to enable connection to the smart grid system
  • Installation of new chargers
  • Development of a smart grid application that communicates with the connected vehicles and the energy storage system to control the overall demand
  • Installation of an energy storage system which coverts and inverts power based on tariff, network loading and vehicle specific requirements
  • Collaboration with subject matter experts to develop the specification of the requirements for a new charge post with integrated smart grid functionality

By integrating active network management and battery storage system technologies, we ensured the depot’s electricity demand would not exceed the network’s limit. This prevented the need for significant investment in network electrical infrastructure and safeguarded UPS against the impact associated with having uncharged vehicles.


UPS thinks this is a world first, right in the heart of a mega-city. We are using new technology to work around some big obstacles to electric vehicle deployment, heralding a new generation of sustainable urban delivery services both here in London and in other major cities around the world. Electric vehicles are an integral component within UPS’s alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. Our collaboration with UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership marks a major turning point in the cost effective deployment of electric vehicles which in turn will play a key role in ensuring the global trend toward urbanization is sustainable. We are applying new technology to make the charging process smarter and our delivery service cleaner. Peter Harris, director of sustainability, UPS Europe.

The solution addressed all of UPS’s requirements while offering system reliability and a replicable and scalable design.

  • The Smart Grid system will enable UPS to fully electrify its Kentish Town fleet with half the connection capacity that was originally required, avoiding network reinforcement
  • The system will allow UPS to ensure ongoing continuity of business operations into the future while UPS transitions its fleet to electric
  • The project was the world’s first application of a smart grid system incorporating smart charging in a business as usual environment for a logistics company
  • The system incorporated additional functionality to provide further cost savings for UPS

Delivery and collaboration

The project was delivered on time and on budget and the solution is now operating as business as usual. It is an example of UK Power Networks Services’ innovative solutions to help businesses integrate electric vehicles into their fleets and optimise their existing infrastructure.

We deployed the Smart Electric Urban Logistics project in partnership with UPS, UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership, with funding from the UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles through a competition led by Innovate UK.

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