German courier service DHL, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post, has gone it alone to design and manufacture its own electric delivery vans, in a move which highlights the changing nature of vehicle production and may foreshadow similar moves from other major operators.

The StreetScooter was originally a startup project based on research initiatives from a number of institutions in Aachen. The project was bought outright by Deutsche Post in late 2014 with a view to replacing its entire fleet of around 30,000 vans.

The first 1,000 StreetScooter box vans are already in service with DHL, and the company plans to be building 10,000 vehicles per year by 2017. Deutsche Post is yet to decide whether it will make the StreetScooter available for sale, or whether it will homologate the StreetScooter for use in other countries around the world.

Unsurprisingly, the vehicle specificiations are designed to precisely serve its intended use of urban parcel deliveries. Top speed is limited to only 50mph, and the company claims a range of up to 50 miles. The 30kW motor is fed by a lithium-ion battery, with a full charge taking seven hours.

The powertrain and all major components come from outside suppliers, meaning DHL is only responsible for final assembly of the vans. Although the company has not disclosed its financial workings, Deutsche Post board member Jürgen Gerdes told Automotive News Europe that “you will not believe how cheap it is to make” the StreetScooters.

DHL’s decision to replace 30,000 vans from external suppliers with its own in-house vehicle has naturally been a blow to its existing suppliers. The company also intends for its StreetScooters to last a lot longer than current vehicles. The target working of life is 16 years, based on working six days per week for ten hours per shift. So the net loss to current suppliers could be well over 100,000 vehicles for the life of the new vehicles.

Volkswagen is the biggest loser, as most ScreetScooters will end up replacing Volkswagen Caddys on the DHL fleet. Volkswagen CEO, Matthias Mueller, told Automotive News Europe that he was “annoyed beyond measure” by the decision, although Deutsche Post claims that that none of the major van manufacturers were interested in producing a vehicle to suit the company’s needs.

Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of The Van Expert, which came about after the success of sister site The Car Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help vehicle buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.