ups electric cargo bike sidewalk hamburg

UPS Expands Experiments with Electric Powered Cargo Bikes

With increasing parcel delivery demand caused by the exploding growth of eCommerce, logistics companies keep looking for more efficient ways to deliver packages.

For years, UPS and other parcel delivery services fought over the commercial address delivery market. And while it remains stable, residential deliveries are becoming a more significant factor for courier companies.

Just this year, UPS announced regular Saturday delivery, a huge admission that residential delivery growth required the company to consider a change in delivery strategy.

Of course, Amazon, and a host of courier services are experimenting with drone deliveries. But regulatory hurdles along with safety and security concerns keep large-scale deployment of drone deliveries a future ideal.

Image: Flytrex | Preparing a Drone for Flight
Image: Flytrex

Only this year, did Flytrex receive limited permission to start regular drone delivery service in an urban environment. And that was in Reykjavik, Iceland, hardly a major metropolis by U.S. standards.

Driving delivery trucks designed for commercial deliveries in congested urban areas is just not a feasible long-term operation.

The start and stop nature of residential deliveries makes the process inefficient and requires more maintenance on the trucks.

Shippers are already complaining about residential surcharges, so adding more fees will just drive shippers away from the big parcel delivery services. And postal systems delivering with smaller vehicles gain a competitive advantage to service the urban residential addresses.

The UPS Rolling Laboratory Includes Electric Delivery Cargo Bikes

This laboratory is UPS’s “skunk works” for alternative fuel vehicles and advanced technologies to reduce environmental impacts and make deliveries more efficient.

If you live in Basel, Switzerland, Hamburg, Germany, or a few other cities in Europe, you may see these odd-looking electric cargo bikes already.

Started as a pilot project in 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, European cities are the perfect place to test these bikes on narrow “old world” streets with a lack of parking spaces.

“By using cargo bikes in a targeted manner, UPS aims to reduce inner-city congestion, noise, and emissions.
This form of urban delivery also offers a distinct advantage to UPS itself, as it reduces the time spent on searching for a suitable parking position, saving valuable time.”

Philip Healey, marketing manager for UPS Switzerland

However, these “pilot” projects seem to pop up around the world, so it’s probably now beyond the test phase in many cities and part of an ongoing strategy by UPS to make residential deliveries more efficient.

Cargo Bikes in North America

ups david abney ceo cargo bike portland pilot
Image: UPS

The UPS experiment with cargo bikes in North America started in Portland, OR about a year ago. This week UPS unveiled the first pilot project with these bikes in Canada.

The cargo bikes in Toronto will be deployed near York University as that is close to UPS’s central distribution hub. Eventually the company plans to expand the delivery area for cargo bikes.

In other cities around the world, UPS deploys strategically placed storage containers to make the cargo bikes feasible. Couriers can peddle back to fill up the cargo space on their bike without having to go across town.

The solutions for the last mile delivery to residential urban neighborhoods are numerous. It does appear these bikes are relatively inexpensive, do not require a considerable support strategy, and can be quickly deployed.

What do you think about cargo delivery bikes? Do you think this is a better solution than drones or other delivery systems? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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