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Japan's Yamato and Germany's DHL jointly develop electric van

Greater Tokyo to be home to 500 of the vehicles and about 100 charging stations

A DHL electric truck: Japanese and German rivals are teaming up on a new delivery vehicle that is expected to lessen the strain on personnel and help Japan's Yamato deal with the country's labor shortage.

TOKYO -- Yamato Holdings, a Japanese parcel delivery company, and DHL, the Deutsche Post group's international logistics company, are jointly developing a small electric truck for door-to-door deliveries.

Plans are to bring 500 of the vehicles to the Tokyo metropolitan area by fall.

It will mark the first large-scale EV introduction by a major Japanese logistics company.

The efforts come with delivery companies handling ever-larger numbers of packages, the result of consumers' shifting their shopping habits to the internet, and as couriers try to reduce their global warming emissions.

Yamato plans to aggressively shift to electric power for its fleet of some 40,000 vehicles.

StreetScooter, a DHL group electric vehicle developer, will manufacture the vehicle itself, while Yamato is responsible for a refrigerator-freezer cargo box to be attached to it.

The truck bed will be waist high so that workers can load and unload cargo without having to enter the refrigerator-freezer compartment.

Yamato recently began suffering from Japan's labor crunch and is trying to reduce its employees' physical strain and improve conditions to attract new workers.

Since electric vehicles are quiet, Yamato plans to use the new vehicle in residential areas in the late afternoon and later.

The vehicle will resemble the shape of a minivan.

The two companies will soon sign an agreement for the development deal, for which about 4 billion yen ($36 million) is estimated to be spent, including costs for building a charging infrastructure.

The van is expected to offer another benefit -- low maintenance costs -- since it will have fewer parts than conventional, internal-combustion-powered vehicles.

The plan is to set up charging equipment at about 100 delivery points in the Tokyo metro area. One charge is expected to allow a vehicle to run for six or seven hours and go for about 100 km.

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