DHL expands EV logistics centres to manage EV battery logistics

21st October 2022 By: Donna Slater - Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

DHL expands EV logistics centres to manage EV battery logistics

DHL battery logistics development lead and EV team logistics business and commercial development VP Fabio Sacchi

Logistics company DHL is expanding and refining its development of an end-to-end electric vehicle (EV) battery logistics supply chain solution to bridge the gap between moving EV battery materials and finished products between manufacturing plants.

The increase in demand for battery logistics solutions is being driven by a variety of pressures, with the move to EVs in the two-wheel, three-wheel and public transport markets in Africa part of a global shift to alternative fuels.

However, DHL stated that EVs extended beyond the automotive sector, and other industries including engineering and manufacturing were also following this path to keep up with a consumer demand, to provide a more sustainable future.

Speaking to Engineering News on the side-lines of the Smarter Mobility Summit Africa on October 6, DHL battery logistics development lead and EV team logistics business and commercial development VP Fabio Sacchi said that, from a logistics perspective, large EV batteries were challenging to handle because they were classified as dangerous and volatile cargo.

For example, in air freight, EV batteries are classified as United Nations Class 9. This, he said, “involves a lot of complicated aspects to manage, as such items are sensitive to temperature, humidity and collisions. This comes down to very complex logistics solutions [being required].”

The supply chain starts with suppliers of raw materials, such as cobalt, copper, nickel and lithium. The battery manufacturers then use those raw materials to make up battery packs for use in EVs.

“EV batteries must be managed from cradle to grave. [In this regard, DHL] can offer a complete logistics solution, including the recycling and recovery of cobalt as an example,” says Sacchi.

As such, because EV batteries need to be recycled to remove valuable materials at the end of their product lives, EV batteries also need to be returned to a recycling company.

“The company’s solution of nearshoring EV batteries and components thereof resulted in efficient battery delivery without having to invest in the setup of a logistics management business.

“DHL EV centres of excellence are able to facilitate the movement of battery cargo efficiently to shorten transit and clearance timeframes, as well as to help locate EV batteries where they are needed at potentially short notice,” he noted.

However, DHL stated that the EV revolution was taking place despite these challenges, and that a gap was being created in the logistics market for end-to-end supply chain logistics solutions to ensure EV components and spares were where they needed to be to, at the right time, to ensure sales and servicing of EVs matched booming demand, especially in developed countries.

The EV market is set to expand in the coming years, as more vehicle owners opt to replace their internal combustion engine vehicles with electric, hydrogen or hybrid alternatives.

The size of the market is based on predictions that the EV market will grow to 25-million units by 2025, with EVs expected to account for 55% of the vehicle market by 2040 and with demand for lithium-ion batteries, in particular, growing by a factor of six in the coming decade.

To address EV battery logistics challenges and legislation mismatches, Sacchi said DHL’s EV centres of excellence would offer global, regional and local logistics knowledge and expertise with warehousing and distribution options, providing EV makers and maintainers the ability to conduct operations timeously.

He added that any DHL EV centres of excellence could be modularised to offer a myriad of EV logistics solutions, depending on client and market requirements.

Further, DHL sub-Saharan Africa regional customer manager Natascha Zupan said that the company’s Dubai EV centre of excellence, for example, served as a regional EV logistics hub for the entire United Arab Emirates, as it offered a seaport and road network from which the region could be accessed and served.

Looking ahead, Sacchi stated that DHL intended introducing EV centres of excellence in major EV hubs – an effort that he pointed out would further expand DHL’s ability to efficiently manage logistics between the fast-emerging markets and ensure EV owners have quick access to spare parts.