It is all about minimizing our ecological footprint

Karel web2
City Hub, as a developer of sustainable urban logistics hubs, is dedicated to playing a pivotal role in the energy transition. This goal, however, does not come without its challenges. For example, the installation of 600 solar panels in Utrecht led to the company producing an excess of sustainable electricity. With the help of Utilus, it was ensured that this surplus is now managed optimally. An interview with Karel Hoeben, CEO of City Hub.

What is City Hub’s mission?

City Hub is devoted to the sustainability of urban logistics. Our mission is to enhance the livability of cities. We operate in seven cities: Groningen, Delft, Roermond, Utrecht, Leiden, Amsterdam, and Maastricht.’

‘We achieve this mission by establishing physical logistics hubs on the outskirts of the city, close to major roads. At our hubs, large freight traffic stops, and goods are transferred to smaller, electric vehicles. Goods from different partners are at that moment also combined for optimal utilisation of the vehicles. This process ensures that goods are delivered into the city efficiently and without emissions.’

‘In the reverse direction, carriers bring goods from the city to our hubs, where they are then transferred to freight traffic. Here, the goal is twofold: firstly, efficiency, meaning fewer transport movements within the city, and secondly, sustainability, which equates to zero emissions.’

Does City Hub handle all the transport itself?

‘Actually, no. We have a network of partners because every city has a unique flow of goods moving in and out. This applies to both the types of goods flows and the volumes. With our partners, we aim to build as efficient a network as possible.’

‘This primarily involves SMEs that specialize in last-mile city logistics and make use of electric vehicles (EVs).’

That makes sense. What’s the advantage for them to be your partner?

‘One of the benefits for our partners is that we as much as possible ensure that their vehicles are fully utilized on both the outbound and return trips. Additionally, the vehicles are also shared among partners at the hub.’

Is that it, in terms of benefits?

‘We also offer other services, such as storage. Companies can rent a unit for pallet storage. They can also park and charge vehicles, and there’s the option to rent an office space.’

What do you as a company do in terms of sustainability?

‘For us it’s all about minimizing our ecological footprint. Apart from the sustainable fleet of our partners, we actively reduce the use of fossil fuels in our offices. Where we still use gas, we look for electric alternatives. And we focus on raising awareness and promoting sustainable actions within our team.’

‘Additionally, we install solar panels. In Utrecht for instance, we installed 600 solar panels on the roof to make our energy consumption more sustainable. We ourselves use that electricity, for example for our office. And our partners use it to charge their vehicles.’

But then you still have too much electricity?

‘At one point in Utrecht, we were feeding so much electricity back to the grid that we were reprimanded by grid operator Stedin. Utrecht is what’s known as a congestion area, where the electricity network is at its maximum capacity.’

‘The solar panels have become more effective because, at least in recent years, there have been more hours of sunshine. As a result, we generate more than we use. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the fact that electricity is often generated at times when demand is lower. Specifically, charging of vehicles, including regular cars, mainly occurs in the evening, while the sun shines during the day.’

Did you then turn to Utilus for a solution?

‘Not immediately. We considered unplugging on certain days. But that would be a waste. The solar panels would then be idle, even though they have a lot of potential.’

And then?

‘We were already in touch with Utilus. When they heard about our problem, they indicated that they were already conducting research in this area. Specifically, they were looking at how they could contribute to solving congestion in the market.’

‘Eventually they came up with a smart solution for us. We now have a fully automated software system that regulates the generation of electricity for City Hub. If the network indicates that too much electricity is being produced, it automatically switches off a portion of the solar panels. This way, we alleviate pressure on the grid while still generating electricity for our own use, such as in our office, so we don’t need to buy electricity.’

How cool. And how happy is Stedin with this solution?

‘Well, we’re not receiving angry letters anymore.’

How do you view the future – can this smart IT solution be further developed?

‘Utilus and I share the same vision in this area. In the future energy will become the new ‘internet of things.’ There will be an electricity network comprising many sources of energy, and countless batteries, for example, from cars. From all these batteries, we should be able to use a bit of extra power at any given moment, or charge them up more. Smart software like the one by Utilus will then be crucial.’

‘Furthermore City Hub is looking beyond just the fleet of our partners. For example, we have very large freezers – where partners store frozen goods. Imagine if you have excess electricity at some point? Then you can make the freezer colder, which is no problem for the products. When you need more power, you can turn the freezer down. The surplus power you then have, in the form of electricity that normally would have been needed for that freezer but is not now because you can let the freezer get less cold, can be used for charging vehicles. I find this concept very appealing. In that way, your freezer also becomes a kind of battery.’

Cool. Finally: you’ve been working with Utilus for several years now. Could you summarize the character of the company in a few sentences?

‘If you were to summarize Utilus in one word, it would be: proactive. They respond very adequately, quickly address problems. They take initiative and relieve us of tasks, allowing us to focus on our goals. They have a strong sense of ownership and show determination in realizing our wishes. At Utilus, they work purposefully towards a total solution.’

For more information, please check the Utilus + City Hub Case right here.

Rolf Bonninga

More articles


A big welcome to the Utilus team, Swathi!

Utilus is pleased to announce Swathi Bekkera as the latest addition to our Amsterdam team.



Loodswezen to the cloud

At Utilus, one focus is migrating critical applications to cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure. Among our clients in this area is Loodswezen, an organisation vital to the Dutch economy.


Happy Women's Day!

At Utilus, we are proud to have a diverse and inclusive workplace where women can thrive.