gothenburg1City of Gothenburg

If you walk through a certain section of downtown Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city, you won't find big delivery trucks jamming up traffic like you do in places like New York City. 

If you do spy a delivery vehicle, it will be one of two zero-emission cars that are part of the town's Stadsleveransen (or City Delivery), a system that consolidates deliveries for 400 businesses at a site about a mile from the city center. 

The system eliminates noise and emissions, says Gothenburg city logistic project manager Christoffer Widegren.

The Stadsleveransen vehicles "blend into the traffic with pedestrians and bicyclists," he tells Tech Insider. "They are widely perceived as a nice thing in the street environment rather than an obstacle like normal trucks might be perceived."

Regular cars are allowed in the area (except for two pedestrian-only streets), but standard delivery trucks are not. 

The Stadsleveransen model is something that has the potential to remake city centers. According to the European Union logistics initiative Smartset, freight accounts for up to 20% of traffic and 50% of greenhouse gas emissions by automobiles in cities. 

The program started three years ago as a small pilot, handling goods for eight shops. Now it handles packages for a 90,000 square meter section of the city, or about 10 blocks. The area will expand this year when the program adds a third car. Thus far five traditional delivery trucks have been taken off the road.

Stadsleveransen initially relied on private and public funding while in pilot mode. Now it survives on revenues from transport companies, which use the program as a subcontractor. Revenue from advertising on the vehicles also helps.

Similar programs could make downtowns in other cities more welcoming — especially in places like Gothenburg with medieval, cobble-stoned centers.

"Like many city cores, Gothenburg is competing with malls and shopping centers," Widegren says. "Reducing congestion is an important contribution, but it's also important to make a more attractive and competitive city core. It's part of an overall approach to strengthen the competitiveness of the city core."