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As Pollution From Online Shopping Grows, London Funds a Solution

London’s delivery companies are experimenting with electric vehicles to curb the smog spewed by vans distributing parcels packed with goods purchased on the Internet.

The U.K. capital’s transport authority is catalyzing the transition from diesel to battery-powered vehicles by funding Gnewt Cargo Ltd., which operates London’s largest all electric delivery fleet. Gnewt is part owned by shipping DX Group Ltd, counting TNT Express NV and Hermes Parcelnet Ltd. among its customers.

With their emissions-free electric motors silently navigating 20,000 packages a day through London streets, Gnewt could also deliver a breath of fresh air to Europe’s biggest city. The government says London’s pollution levels will probably breach European Union limits until at least 2030, a problem the Royal College of Physicians estimates causes 40,000 people a year to die early.

London expects a 20 percent increase in van traffic within the next 15 years traceable solely to things bought from the Web. Gnewt’s vans, which also use centralized depots to reduce the number of journeys, is seen as one solution to curb the smog and traffic generated by online-order deliveries.

“My clients send me all of their freight in bulk through the night, and then we will sort it and do the last mile in town with zero emissions,” Sam Clarke, founder and director of Gnewt Cargo, said in...