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As Formula E logistics partner, DHL puts focus on e-mobility and sustainability

DHL, the world’s leading logistics provider, announced on September 11 the successful delivery of 41 electric racing cars and related equipment to Beijing for the maiden leg of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship, the first fully-electric racing series in the world spanning nine cities in 10 months.

The Beijing ePrix was successfully competed on September 13.

The delivery was made possible with the help of DHL’s industry leading logistics solutions and over 30 years of experience and relationship with the Formula One World Championship as well as other motorsports events worldwide.

“With a commitment to provide sustainable and innovative solutions that deliver value for society, we at DHL are delighted to have this strategic partnership with Formula E,” said Ken Allen, CEO of DHL Express. “As a company that has pioneered green transport initiatives, our partnership with Formula E is a perfect platform to showcase our green logistics solutions globally and also to test and develop solutions of the future.

“With DHL providing reliable and carbon efficient logistics solutions in delivering cars and equipment to the race locations, we are able to deliver on the commitment we have made to deliver a sustainable, first class entertainment event to the world,” said Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag.

“We are proud of our DHL Global Forwarding Motorsports Team for finding efficient, seamless solutions to the challenge of delivering the large lithium-ion batteries, in particular, which require special handling and certification,” said Fathi Tlatli, President of Global Automotive Sector, DHL Customers Solutions & Innovation (CSI).


Battery shipment biggest challenge 

The lithium-ion battery packs used on the electric racing cars were the most difficult element of transportation of vehicles and related equipment for the Formula E, according to DHL. “The lithium batteries are probably the most unique part of it compared to other very heavy movements around the world,” Allen told CBU/CAR in response to a question on the challenges of Formula E logistics. “But thankfully the experience of our relationship with Formula One and other events around the world blended in well.”

In fact, each of the 10 racing teams has 5-6 tons of equipment including battery packs that weigh 320 kg each (including 200 kg of battery cell holding up to 30 kWh of energy) and cost about €100,000, according to Agag. 

“There are 40 batteries, one in each car and one more in the test car, as well as 5 spare batteries in case of crash or damage to the vehicle,” said Agag. “They go through the strictest permit process from the UN for testing and approval for cargo travel. We had to destroy a number of batteries and drop a battery from a height of 6 meters for crash testing to all UN specifications for flight.”

DHL has helped devise a one-way travelling route for all nine venues covering 51,000 km, and provided packing solutions for battery shipment. “The batteries are shipped in the car, which is an important element. We have also provided packaging solution for stability,” said Tlatli. “We need to do it correctly because it is a global business. You need authorization, paperwork, and special handling equipment to make it work.”

“Cars have batteries and need protection. DHL gave us a piece of mind on how we are going to transport the batteries,” said Agag. “It also helped design a strategy to minimize carbon footprint for the entire championship, such as optimizing routes and use by ship and train as much as possible. This is extremely important for the credibility and sustainability of everything we do.”

The logistics challenge with respect to China has been mitigated by the Chinese government support, according to Jerry Hsu, CEO of DHL Express Asia Pacific. “It has been only 2.5 years from the Formula E idea to the event in Beijing. China has provided the most support to have this happen in the shortest time. With the Chinese government support, with an entrepreneur like Alejandro and with our expertise in logistics and moving all these cars, we made it happen,” said Hsu.


Sponsoring for e-mobility and sustainability

Hsu emphasized that DHL is sponsoring Formula E for two reasons: e-mobility and sustainability.

“There is huge potential in the field, not just lithium batteries. We see that as a beginning of a giant movement in the future. That’s why we want to be part of it,” said Hsu. “We are dealing with shipping lithium battery everyday under strict government and UN rules. Every area we touch we see potential for e-mobility and for other applications. I’m so glad it happened in China first.”

“The exciting thing about Formula E is that it’s going to exponentially increase the innovation and rate of development of batteries and EVs in the next 5-10 years. It will become a reality that every company in the world should use EVs, which can drive a massive reduction of global carbon print,” added Allen.

Allen indicated that DHL is the first international logistics company to introduce a measurable target for CO2 efficiency and has committed, through its GoGreen program, to generate 30 percent less CO2 by 2020 (versus 2007 levels). DHL is utilizing a more energy efficient fleet such as Boeing 777 airplanes and hybrid vehicles to reduce its greenhouse emissions.

In China specifically, it has made significant progress in green initiatives, according to Wu Dongming, executive vice president of DHL Express Asia Pacific.


“Our latest carbon accounting shows that we had an improvement in CO2 efficiency of 17 percent in 2013 compared with 2012,” said Wu.

“Sustainability is about working smarter,” said Tlatli. “We have to have better use of existing assets, how you optimize fleets and organize your supply chain, that’s a first step. Another important element is burn less and burn clean.

“Our sustainability and our view on green is that you can’t really compare how much we spend on moving batteries and cars, you have to think about the future of e-mobility and how we reduce the social burden for the countries and people,” said Hsu.


Concentrate on international business

DHL, which prides itself on its international business focus (covering more than 220 countries and territories), plans to stay that way.

“That’s what we concentrate on and that’s where we are growing,” said Allen. “Our advantages are that within the world we are the market leader, that’s all we think about.”

Allen believes that there are thousands and millions of small companies that have a presence in the U.S. and China who want to go to the export market, and DHL is the best choice to help them export to or from any country in the world. The Chinese market, according to Allen, is well served by its local Chinese logistics companies, such as SF Express.

“It requires a lot of guts to get into the Chinese domestic market but it also takes a lot more guts to get out,” said Hsu, referring to DHL’s divestiture from the domestic business several years ago.

Hsu believes that the Chinese domestic market is a fine area to be in, but it’s going to have to go through some evolutionary and consolidating point. “There are just so many people in the domestic playing field – 35,000 companies. When there is opportunity, when the China market matures enough, we will find a way to address the domestic market,” added Hsu.

In fact, DHL has been working with Sinotrans, its local partner, since 1986. “There is no other joint venture logistics company that have survived and thrived like what we have done,” said Dong. Local management and knowledge of local customers and a razor sharp focus on international express especially knowledge on international import and export customs clearance gives DHL-Sinotrans an unique advantage over other international competitors who operate in the country, according to Dong.

“This is our capability in every country we operate, a big plus for us. We train all of our 100,000 employees globally into Certified International Specialists (CIS). From this standpoint, no one can compete with us,” said Dong.

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