E-shopping Meets Electrified Self-Driving: Impacts on Warehousing, the Environment, and Environmental Justice

Research Team: Jean-Daniel Saphores (lead), Michael Hyland, Stephen Ritchie, Miguel Jaller, and Lu Xu

UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The growth of e-commerce is changing not only retailing, household shopping, and travel, but also logistics and warehousing. Annual U.S. e-commerce sales soared from $136.5 billion to $870.8 billion between 2009 and 2021. In parallel, the number of warehouses in the U.S. has been growing at an increasing rate, jumping from 15,152 in 2010 to 19,190 in 2020. The growth in warehousing has been particularly strong in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region. Forecasts call for a 33% increase in the demand for warehouse space by 2040 compared to 2014. While the expansion of warehousing creates jobs and contributes to economic growth, it also raises concerns about air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, accidents, and quality of life in residential areas that neighbor large warehouses. The emergence of self-driving (automated) vehicles is also likely to deeply affect both how people shop and the logistics industry by substantially lowering the cost of freight transportation. This will impact the size, number, and location of both warehouses and brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Project Description: This project will explore the potential impacts of e-commerce and truck automation on warehousing in California by 2045 and identify potential state actions to preempt environmental and social justice impacts as the freight sector undergoes decarbonization. The researchers will develop various scenarios to study the impacts of moving goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to warehouses by zero-emission, self-driving vehicles (at a fraction of current costs) before being delivered to customers’ homes, neighborhood drop-off points, or stores. The results will inform the state’s freight action plan and help correct some of the environmental injustices linked to freight deliveries in California.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $115,000