Over the last few months, I’ve fallen in love. And the object of my desire is helping to save the planet. I’m talking about the cutsie canary-yellow scooters that deliver our letters and magazines, courtesy of La Poste – our French postal service. Interesting fact. Did you know that France has one of the highest number of post-boxes of any country in the world, first installed in Paris in 1653? Back then, stamps did not exist, and it was the receiver of the letters that had to pay for the privilege of receiving them.
Today, La Poste is one of the few public services in France that gets any praise for the quality of its service. But there’s competition. In 2005, La Poste lost its monopoly on postal delivery and since then several competing firms have set up business in France, although most of them only deliver parcels (TNT Express, DHL Express, United Parcel Service ...) or recorded letters.
But back to the object of my desire, those bright yellow two-wheelers. La Poste is doing its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 10% of the 600,000 vehicles in the fleet of the French postal service are electrically powered. Not only is your post being delivered to your door in the most environmentally friendly way possible, but La Poste currently has the largest fleet of electric powered vehicles in the world. And they intend to add another 10,000 vehicles by 2017. The introduction of electric vehicles is part of its global strategy to reduce CO2 emissions by 1000 tonnes a year and to save 5 million litres of fuel.
The idea is not new. Postal operators have been trying out electric vehicles to handle the shorter-range deliveries – between 60 and 70 kilometres – before returning to the depot to be recharged. But La Poste is now working with French car manufacturer Renault to test out a longer-range mail truck powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which can reach a range of 200 kilometres before needing to be recharged. And in the scooter department, it has selected Ligier to supply a number of exclusively designed three-wheeled vehicles for the delivery and collection of mail and small goods.
Ligier has named their three-wheeled bright yellow vehicle the Staby, due to its increased stability and safety. The Staby is eventually intended to replace the fleet’s scooters.
The French government is keen to get in on the act, too, and it wants to encourage all drivers to cut out tailpipe pollution and reduce carbon emissions. New schemes have been implemented to reduce pollution, from paying people to bike to work and creating more bike lanes to banning cars one day a year in Paris. But the powers that be in Paris want a reduction in road pollution and, with that in mind, have launched a new initiative to financially compensate drivers who opt for electric cars.
The Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy wants to target especially older cars responsible for a disproportionate amount of emissions. The “conversion premium” will offer up to €10,000 for a fully electric vehicle or up to €6,500 for a plug-in hybrid to any driver who wants to trade in their old car.
The US tried a similar programme, but only offered up to $7,500 per car. In the UK, Highways England has implemented a series of tests, placing electric cables under the bitumen to recharge the electric car battery while the car is moving. A novel idea, but it comes at a high cost. €300,000 per kilometre!
In the meantime, my love affair with the bright yellow electric scooters looks set to continue as La Poste is committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% between 2013 and 2020.
So, next time La Poste comes to your door, spare a thought for my aching heart and blow a kiss to the environmentally-friendly bright yellow scooter.