Cities in Drive: Lessons from EcoLogistics Pilot Projects Towards Sustainable Urban Freight

In nine cities spanning Argentina, Colombia, and India, a movement towards a more eco-friendly and efficient urban freight system is gaining momentum. From Rosario’s innovative public cargo bicycle network to Panaji’s reimagined last-mile delivery services, these cities are making substantial strides toward a future dominated by zero emissions. These remarkable efforts among the Stakeholders working groups are cataloged in the released EcoLogistics handbook, which serves as a valuable resource for achieving sustainable urban freight transport and offers insights for other cities looking to follow suit.

This blog was written in collaboration with Andrés Gavilán, Vijay Saini, Ivan Gonzalez and Alejandra Palacio and edited by Barbara Riedemann from ICLEI World Secretariat.


The EcoLogistics Handbook, ‘Unlocking Sustainable Urban Freight,’ equips stakeholders with a powerful toolbox of strategies to foster sustainable urban freight solutions. To embark successfully on the path towards greener urban freight strategies, local and regional governments must collaborate effectively with a diverse range of stakeholders. Delve into some practical case studies with us that serve as inspiring examples of these collaborative efforts.


Rosario’s public cargo bicycle share program.

Rosario, Argentina: Bicycling Towards Sustainability 

Rosario made history with Latin America’s first-ever public cargo bicycle share program, a unique solution to transport challenges. More than an environmental triumph, it presents a new solution for small businesses, replacing conventional traffic with emission-free logistics and setting sustainability benchmarks.

The municipality, collaborating with the local mobility office, public operators, and local trade establishments, spurred this innovative approach in Rosario. They partnered with emerging businesses to roll out 20 cargo bikes fitted with geo-fencing technology and supplementary structures into the public bicycle rental program. 

This demonstration project promises various benefits, including a digital tool for tracking Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reductions and logistics operations metrics, reduced GHG emissions resulting from a shift in the mode of goods delivery, improved local air quality, and heightened distribution efficiency, resulting in time and fuel savings.



Bogotá encourages policies for freight electric vehicle adoption.

Bogotá, Colombia: Evaluation of deconsolidation alternatives in zero-emission vehicles for last-mile distribution of package

An in-depth study of the use of zero-emission vehicles for the final stage of package distribution in highlighted zones of Bogotá showed the possibility of substantially reducing GHG emissions. By requiring that all freight vehicles weighing less than 12 tons be electric vehicles, the city can significantly reduce emissions. The city’s power grid, which is already low in carbon intensity, with the forecasted decarbonization set to reach 98% by 2050, sets Bogotá in good standing to establish policies encouraging electric vehicle adoption. Bogotá also maximized stakeholder engagement and workshops to tap into private sector knowledge and skills to enhance operational areas and reduce carbon emissions.

This project aimed to demonstrate fleet replacement for last-mile logistics by aligning with the city and various freight operators. It also planned for the addition of cargo bikes, electric vans, and electric tricycles to the operation in one of the low air quality zones earmarked by the city. A tool to assess the feasibility of adopting different low to zero emissions technologies was developed to facilitate decision-making in the public administration. 

The project’s benefits include reducing air pollution and related diseases, decreasing GHG emissions, improving service and distribution efficiency levels, confirming fleet transformation scalability, and reducing congestion and road accidents due to smaller vehicle usage.



Electric Low Commercial Vehicles in Kochi.

Kochi, India: Electric three-wheel freight vehicles

A pioneering initiative in Kochi exemplifies the potential and viability of electric Low Commercial Vehicles (LCVs). The project proposes substituting fossil fuel-powered vehicles with electric ones, which is predicted to reduce emissions dramatically. The use of digitization for fleet control, battery usage tracking, and charge optimization is a notable element of this pilot study. During the evaluation phase, the goal is to curtail diesel consumption and minimize CO2 emissions by more than 20 tons.



Designated freight parking area in Shimla.

Shimla, India: Optimizing Freight Flow with loading and unloading zones 

This city has been tackling congestion and pollution problems emanating from the freight sector via short-lived action plans. The city administration of Shimla, aided by ICLEI EcoLogistics, has settled on 17 spots within the city known for hectic traffic to modify and organize the curb into a designated area for freight parking and the loading and unloading of goods. The city intends to bring about novel signalization and set operational schedules. 

The initiative zeroes in on specific road sections to facilitate traffic movement, decrease breaches, and augment environmental sustainability. Enhancing the capabilities of city personnel and stakeholders through instructive programs and seminars forms a crucial part of the project, encouraging proficient and eco-friendly freight operations. With the adoption of digital tools for instant tracking, parking regulation, and traffic enhancement, the execution of intelligent freight solutions is facilitated.

Additionally, urban drivers will be trained in eco-driving. This ultimately seeks to decrease traffic contraventions, congestion, and travel distance while enhancing mobility and environment-friendly sustainability. This project aims to mitigate the congestion and emissions birthed from the freight sector via pinpointed road sections in the short term and empower city employees and stakeholders to collaborate with the freight sector through training and workshop mechanisms.



Electric vehicles for last-mile logistics in Panaji.

Panaji, India: Redefining Last-Mile Delivery 

Panaji is striving to promote cooperative last-mile delivery by deploying electric charging vehicles. 

The expected reduction in diesel use and associated emissions highlights the benefits of adopting carbon-neutral freight alternatives. Digital infrastructures and data analytics are indispensable to orchestrate and improve the joint delivery process. In this city, improved last-mile cooperative delivery (through load pooling) aligns with using electric freight vehicles without compromising the standards of existing operations. 

Potential benefits encompass the introduction of a fleet of electric freight vehicles poised to accelerate the phase-out of the internal combustion engine (ICE)-based light commercial vehicle (LCV) and two-wheeler (ICE) fleet. By testing freight pooling concepts with electric LCVs, some 10,000 deliveries are expected to switch to electric vehicles during more than 100 days of testing. This provides an opportunity to assess the potential for scalability and emission reductions in the medium to long term.

The EcoLogistics pilot projects in Rosario, Bogota, Kochi, Shimla, and Panaji set sustainability benchmarks for cities worldwide. These cities are accelerating the march towards zero-emission urban freight systems through innovative and digital solutions, stakeholder collaboration, and a sharp focus on sustainable practices. Their efforts provide insights into the complex yet achievable journey towards zero emissions. Consequently, these experiences remind us that a greener future is a shared responsibility.


About EcoLogistics Project

“EcoLogistics: Low Carbon Freight for Sustainable Cities” is a project (2017-2022) led by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in partnership with Despacio, Zaragoza Logistics Center, and Smart Freight Center. Supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the project focused on capacitating governmental and non-governmental actors to build strategies and policies to promote low-carbon and more sustainable urban freight through local action and national support.