Jessica Wehner: Energy efficiency improvements in logistics as a means to environmental sustainability
Energy efficiency in transport. “By using already existing energy more efficiently, the total energy consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced”, says Jessica Wehner, Chalmers.

Logistics management key to energy efficiency improvements

​By broadening the scope on capacity new opportunities for energy efficiency can arise. In her research, Jessica Wehner at Chalmers shows how logistics managers can shape their business to reduce their energy consumption in freight transportation and logistics.
​Jessica Wehners research focuses on how energy can be used more efficiently in road freight transportation and logistics. She is a PhD student at Chalmers Department of Technology Management and Economics, and is now presenting her licentiate thesis: Energy efficiency improvements in logistics as a means to environmental sustainability: The case of capacity utilisation in road freight transportation
 
Tell us about your research!
The purpose of my research is to identify the potential for improvement of energy efficiency in logistics through the utilisation of capacity in road freight transportation in order to enhance environmental sustainability. To do so, I, for example, conducted interviews and collected data on what causes unutilised capacity in freight transportation and proposed countermeasures.
 
The research is part of the research project “The Fifth Fuel” in which energy efficiency is viewed as a fifth energy resource beyond the four energy resources of petroleum, coal, nuclear and alternative energy forms. By using already existing energy more efficiently, the total energy consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced which contributes to environmental sustainability.
 
Why is this so important?
End consumers demand more and more products and those come from all over the world which creates high emissions because of their transportation and logistics. This is dangerous for the environment and causes global warming. In order to reduce those emissions and the total energy consumption, new technologies are developed. But they alone are not sufficient. A change in the management of logistics and transportation is needed as well as a behavioural change of the involved actors. It is very interesting to look into the management of logistics from an energy-centric point of view because great potential for energy efficiency improvements can be found there. Exploiting this potential for improvement of energy efficiency helps contributing to environmental sustainability.
 
What are your most important research findings?
Capacity in road freight transportation needs to be viewed as an interactive concept – meaning capacity is an energy consuming unit influenced by several components embedded in a wider system. By changing one component or its condition the whole system will be influenced. By broadening the scope on capacity new opportunities for energy efficiency can arise. To broaden the scope on capacity, either the system boundaries can be extended horizontally or the view on capacity can be shifted vertically onto another system level.
 

“It is very interesting to look into the management of logistics from an energy-centric point of view because great potential for energy efficiency improvements can be found there”

Jessica Wehner, PhD student, Chalmers
 

What new perspectives do you bring forward in your research?
There is research which looks into environmental sustainability in logistics and freight transportation, but I would say that mine has a more energy-centric approach. In my third paper, I also look into the last-mile fulfilment, compare different last-mile fulfilment options in regard to their energy consumption and assign the end consumer a distinct role in the distribution of goods. There is not much research out there, which includes end consumers by assigning them a distinct role in the logistics fulfilment.
 
What can your research lead to?
My research can be used by logistics managers of logistics and retail companies to shape their business to reduce their energy consumption in freight transportation and logistics. Furthermore, other researchers can build upon the results to create energy efficient logistics solutions.
 
I hope my and similar research will contribute to a change in the logistics sector and lead to a reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
 
What will be the next step in your research?
Very soon, I will start working with a new research project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and focusing on energy efficiency in logistics from a service perspective. In other words, we will study how different services influence the energy consumption in logistics. This touches my previous research project “The Fifth Fuel” but takes a different focus. I think it will be very interesting and it will include the end consumer a lot more.
 
Text: Ulrika Ernström
 

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Page manager Published: Fri 25 Aug 2017.