This zero-emission delivery zone aims to reduce traffic and air pollution

The downtown of Santa Monica, California, has recently become the nation’s first zero-emission delivery zone, meaning that whenever someone gets a delivery there, chances are that it will arrive via an electrified vehicle — be it an electric delivery truck, an electric scooter, a smart delivery robot, or an electric cargo bike.

The idea behind the one-square-mile electric delivery zone is to prioritize vehicles that won’t pollute the environment and to help reduce traffic. As part of the initiative, up to twenty curb-side spots will be designated as zero-emission vehicle loading zones.

“This really aligns with a lot of the priorities that the city has been focused on in terms of our climate goals,” said Ariana Vito, sustainability analyst at the City of Santa Monica, which has partnered with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to run the pilot.

“We released an EV action plan a few years ago, basically recognizing that if we want to have significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions we need to work on increasing access to electric vehicles,” added Vito.

The move is part of the city’s broader climate goals to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next two decades and become carbon neutral by 2050. It comes at a time when the pandemic-induced growth in deliveries has only exacerbated air pollution and the congestion that delivery vehicles are creating on city streets.

To help alleviate these problems, the city is testing smaller vehicles, like sidewalk delivery robots and electric scooters. An app is also available to local businesses to schedule time on a shared electric delivery truck, while the new prioritized curbside space for zero-emissions delivery vehicles is designed to reduce traffic and incentivize more companies to switch to electric.

The pilot will run in Santa Monica until the end of the year as the city evaluates it and makes a decision about whether to make some of the changes permanent. “We’re hoping to be able to use this time to figure out lots of the logistics and how we can make this work long term,” said Vito.

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