The market is in motion

Largely unnoticed by the public, a logistics revolution is taking place in German city centers: In the future, cargo bikes and electric delivery vans will shoulder the burden of the parcel boom.

Largely unnoticed by the public, a logistics revolution is taking place in German city centers: In the future, cargo bikes and electric delivery vans will shoulder the burden of the parcel boom.

The calculation is simple: because more and more parcels are being shipped due to the boom in e-commerce, more and more delivery vehicles are needed. But because there is already not enough traffic space for all stakeholders in most city centers, the parcel flows will have to find other routes to the recipient in the future.

One promising concept is delivery by cargo bikes and electrically powered micro delivery vans. The advantages of the new means of transport are their low land consumption and emission-free drive. The disadvantage: in order to keep the supply chains economical, local micro-hubs are needed in the city from which the cargo bikes fan out. The question of where these areas could be designated remains unanswered in many municipalities.

The top dog leads the way

The business community, however, is already creating facts. The US online retailer Amazon, for example, recently gave the go-ahead for another of a whole series of cargo bike logistics projects in Freiburg/Breisgau and Hochdorf. This fits in with the company's voluntary commitment to become CO2-neutral in all areas of the company by 2040, for which it is testing and implementing pilot projects for low-emission deliveries in more than 20 European cities. This includes, for example, the expansion of the electric delivery fleet and the development of the charging infrastructure for operations, as well as alternative, urban delivery methods in the form of micro-hubs in city centers and delivery by electric delivery bikes, electric scooters or on foot.

The electric delivery bikes used in Freiburg City and Hochdorf are equipped with charging boxes in which the packages can be transported. The drivers of the delivery service partners, including the Tübingen-based company veloCARRIER, use them to deliver packages. The parcels delivered by the electric delivery bike from the Upper Bavarian manufacturer Urban Mobility are sorted by tour at the Amazon distribution center in Freiburg-Hochdorf and handed over to the delivery partners. In Freiburg, up to 14 e-cargo bikes are currently in use - seven at the distribution center delivering orders in Hochdorf and seven at Schwabentorring delivering to the city center.

Amazon currently uses electric delivery bikes in seven German cities, including Dortmund, Essen, Hamburg, Osnabrück, Munich, Stuttgart and Freiburg. The U.S. logistics company also works with city governments across Europe and operates urban micro-hubs, such as the one in Dortmund on Ostwall.

The delivery services also act

The parcel logistics company Hermes recently launched an emission-free delivery service in Magdeburg. There, the Stadtfeld-Ost and Altstadt areas are now being delivered by cargo bikes and e-transporters. According to the company, two e-transporters and eight cargo bikes are used in an area covering ten square kilometers - more than 1,200 shipments are to be handled per day and over 14 tons of CO2 are to be saved. The delivery area stretches from the Elbe River in the east, Albert-Vater-Strasse in the north and Westring to Sudenburger Wuhne in the south. In addition to delivering to the doorsteps of more than 30,000 Magdeburg residents, the twelve parcel stores in the region are also served with zero emissions, according to Hermes.

The delivery base is located in the immediate vicinity of the city center. From there, the electrically assisted cargo bikes - six Cargobikes from the company Onomotion and two from Citkar - set off directly on the delivery route. The e-transporters are used for larger shipment volumes that go directly to the parcel stores. In addition, only green electricity is used at the distribution center. The cargo bikes can transport up to 120 shipments per tour, and thanks to their proximity to the distribution center, a second delivery wave is also possible.

Citkar cargo bikes are being tested by Hermes in Magdeburg, among others. Image: Johannes Reichel

The technology is also tested

Hermes is testing another cargo bike model in downtown Stuttgart, where two "Cargo:4" e-cargo bikes from the manufacturer A-N.T. are in use. The pedelecs travel centrally on Königstraße and Schlossplatz, among other streets, and each transport an average of 100 shipments a day. The starting point for the delivery tours is the "Stephangarage" underground parking garage. The CEP service uses Apcoa's centrally located parking garage as a microdepot. The experiences from the first test days are promising, Hermes says.

"Stuttgart's city center is made for a cargo bike test. Traffic jams and lack of space are the order of the day here, along with time restrictions for delivery traffic and car-free zones. That doesn't make parcel delivery easy," explains Marko Hudicsek, Manager Last Mile at Hermes Germany in the Stuttgart region. However, the delivery staff have apparently already given positive feedback. They say that traffic jams in downtown Stuttgart are no longer a problem, and the challenging search for a parking space is also a thing of the past.

"The A-N.T. Cargo:4 relies on durable and low-wear scooter components, and is designed for the highest loads in daily, professional transport use. Quality 'Made in Germany'," Michael Halfpap, Senior Account Manager of the ZEG brand, promotes his concept.

The model represents a robust and versatile heavy-duty e-cargo bike that has been specially developed for professional last-mile transport operations. With a payload of 250 kg and a loading area capable of holding a Euro pallet (1.20 m x 0.80 m), the model offers sufficient capacity for parcel transport at a top speed of 25 km/h. Another advantage, he adds, is the individual superstructures. An exchangeable box is used for Hermes parcel transport, and a weather protection can also be added as an option.

Parking garages become a delivery base

The U.S. parcel logistics company UPS even reports an international cooperation with the parking garage operator Apcoa. For several years now, the CEP service provider in Ireland has been using Apcoa's parking garages as a basis for exchanging parcel shipments from larger containers to cargo bikes for last-mile delivery. Now the two companies want to expand their cooperation. There are already bases in Dublin, Hamburg and Cologne, and the plan is to rapidly expand the concept to other cities within the next few years. UPS delivers its containers to the respective parking garages, from which the Cargobikes then deliver. The hubs are also to be used for charging the e-cargo bikes.

The U.S. logistics company launched its first pilot project for city deliveries with cargo bikes from a container depot in Hamburg in 2012 and has since transferred this model to 30 German and several international cities. For Apcoa, with its 1.5 million parking spaces on 1.9 million square meters of land, the collaboration opens up completely new possibilities for urban logistics, parcel boxes for self-collection, charging infrastructure or technology services.

The railroad also gets involved

The rail subsidiary Smart City/DB has opened a new microdepot in a central downtown location directly in the Berlin-Alexanderplatz train station as its second site in Berlin. Via the microdepot, goods arriving at the depot via established logistics networks are finely distributed to the surrounding districts using cargo bikes and low-CO2 small vehicles. Just as with the first microdepot at Tempelhofer Damm in Berlin, embedding the depot as an attractive last-mile logistics solution with aesthetic appeal in the overall urban landscape as well as sustainable urban development was important, the provider outlines.

In addition to using its own DB space directly in the S-Bahn arches of Alexanderplatz station, the power supply is supported by solar panels on the sunny side of the building as an additional source of electricity. With the opening of the new depot, the DB subsidiary is pursuing the development of an inner-city and cross-regional depot network on its own, municipal or private sites.

The sustainable logistics system is also pushing for partnership-based and space-efficient use and opening up to interested logistics companies and shippers. The start will be with the two logistics partners DPD and CityLog. The microdepot functions as a drop-off and transshipment point for DPD. In the morning, parcels are delivered by an electric transporter and then sorted into the cargo bike boxes. The subsequent delivery takes place with two electrically motorized cargo bikes from the Berlin-based manufacturer ONO.

CityLog GmbH is currently implementing projects for CO2-neutral B2B goods delivery in eight major cities. In Berlin, the "city suppliers" have been on the road with their cargo bikes since October 2020 on behalf of the specialist wholesaler Bär & Ollenroth and have since been supplying specialist trade businesses for all areas of building technology with products. For the wholesaler, this is an important step towards sustainability, because the delivery of small parts in the city can be shifted from the 7.5-ton truck to the climate-friendly cargo bike.

Entry without large investment

The Berlin-based fast food delivery service Gorillas plans to use the electrically powered cargo bikes of the Dutch start-up Dockr in Germany in the future to deliver groceries sustainably and emission-free to the doorstep within ten minutes. Due to the increasing popularity of the service with correspondingly growing demand, the delivery service had been looking for an environmentally friendly addition to its current pedelec fleet.

The delivery service was also convinced by the flexible subscription models for the e-cargo bikes. The delivery bikes come with an all-round service and insurance package that enables rapid expansion without major upfront investment, the provider advertises. The license-free e-load bikes offer a payload of up to 350 kilograms and a load volume of up to 1,700 liters.

Newcomers come with momentum

Also in Berlin, the start-up Fairsenden recently successfully completed a first round of financing, raising around four million euros in funding and - almost more importantly - gaining crucial supporters. These include the two financially strong investors and logistics experts Navid Thielemann and Christian Flick, who, together with FIVE Investment GmbH, are bringing three million euros in liquidity to the company alone. All investors are experts in their fields, route optimization, intralogistics, transport logistics, project development and digitalization, the provider explains.

The company Fairsenden was founded in 2019 by Markus Schwarz and organizes the last mile fully digitally and CO2-neutral. The IT- logistics company not only specializes in heterogeneous vehicle fleets and hub structures, but also aims to significantly reduce logistics routes and the resulting traffic. With its IT, the company already controls its own e-cargo bikes and electric van fleets in major cities. Customers can freely choose the delivery time directly in online stores when shipping with Fairsenden and get their order delivered on time and climate-neutral to their doorstep or the location of their choice, according to the provider.

At present the enterprise is active in Berlin and Munich. With the financial injection, the company is now aiming for rapid and stable expansion and wants to organize the last mile emission-free in the most important cities in Germany.

In the future, cargo bikes could make emission-free and quiet deliveries in many cities. Image: HUSS-VERLAG

New vehicles emerge

Um in der City-Logistik mit dabei zu sein, hat der türkische Nutzfahrzeughersteller Ford Otosan eine neue Sub-Marke gegründet, die dem Trend zu leichter Elektromobilität Rechnung tragen soll. Die Rakun Mobilite Teknoloji ve Ticaret A.Ş. peilt sowohl auf private wie auf geschäftliche Kunden und kommt zum Start mit einem zwei- und einem dreirädrigen E-Scooter auf den Markt. Haydar Yenigün, General Manager bei Ford Otosan, begründete den Schritt damit, dass sich viele Branchen derzeit in einem tiefgreifenden Wandel befänden und die Spielregeln neu geschrieben würden.

„Inspiriert von unseren Kunden und angetrieben von unserer Erfahrung und unserem Know-how in der Produktion von Elektro- und Nutzfahrzeugen, stellten wir uns vor, 2- oder 3-Rad-Elektromotorräder für Lieferdienste auf der letzten Meile zu bauen“, erklärt Yenigün. Beide Modelle verfügen über eine 5-kWh-Batterie, die per Steckdose aufgeladen werden kann.

Es sei für Letzte-Meile-Lieferdienste von zentraler Bedeutung, dass ihre Fahrzeuge nahtlos betrieben werden können und dass sie sofortigen Zugang zu Kundendienstleistungen hätten. Daher werde der Kundendienst ein weiterer Schwerpunkt sein. Man wolle hier mit ausgewählten Ford Pkw- und Nutzfahrzeug-Kundendienstzentren zusammenarbeiten und auch einen Vor-Ort-Service mit einem mobilen Fahrzeug anbieten.

Between cargo bike and transporter

Eine komplett neue Fahrzeugklasse entsteht derzeit zwischen Lastenrad und Transporter. Der neue Anbieter Tropos Motors Europe etwa platziert seinen „Tropos ABLE“ zwischen schweren Cargobikes und den großen Transportern. Mit 1,40 Meter Breite könnten die Fahrzeuge in zweiter Reihe halten und schmale Wege befahren, so das Unternehmen. Durch ihren kurzen Radstand und einem Wenderadius von nur 3,96 Metern eignen sie sich zudem für die Beladung an Micro-Hubs. Bei Reichweiten von bis zu 260 Kilometern und einem Transportvolumen von bis zu fünf Kubikmetern könnten Liefertouren zudem flexibel geplant werden.

Für den „Tropos ABLE“ wurden bereits Kofferaufbauten mit Planenrollo und Schiebetüren entwickelt: durch die 3-teilige Konstruktion der Türen lassen sich diese von beiden Seiten öffnen und auf ein Drittel der Fläche zusammenschieben, was den Zugang zu Paketen und Transportbehältern noch einmal deutlich vereinfachen soll.

„Die urbane Logistik wird immer ausgefeilter. Immer mehr Lösungen stehen zur Verfügung, die dem Kunden heute für jeden Bedarf das passende Fahrzeug bieten. Mit unseren kompakten Elektrofahrzeugen suchen wir stets die besten Lösungen für unsere Kunden und passen unsere Produkte an die Bedürfnisse der Branche an. Mit den neuen Kofferaufbauten für den „Tropos ABLE“ stellen wir flexible und effiziente Lösungen für die letzte Meile zur Verfügung und können die Aufbauten entsprechend einem Baukastensystem ausgestalten. Auch individuelle Wünsche können wir umsetzen“, sagt Markus Schrick, Geschäftsführer von Tropos Motors Europe.

Die Basis der in Deutschland entwickelten und gefertigten Aufbauten besteht aus einem stabilen Aluminiumrahmen sowie einem Ladeboden aus Siebdruckplatten. Wahlweise gibt es die Aufbauten mit Planenrollo oder Schiebetüren in zwei Standardgrößen „L“ und „XL“. Um Beladevorgänge unter allen Einsatzbedingungen zu vereinfachen, können am Heck auch Doppelflügeltüren angebracht werden. Auch die Gestaltung der Ladefläche und Anordnung der Fächer sind kundenspezifisch anpassbar. Die Ladefläche kann beispielsweise mit Regaleinbauten für Euroboxen ausgestattet werden, die fest integriert oder – für ein Plus an Flexibilität – rollbar sind.

Cargo bikes from the research lab

But the development of cargo bikes is not yet complete. Antric, a university spin-off from Bochum, recently announced the market launch of another young e-cargo bike provider. The provider wants to distinguish itself through particular robustness and low maintenance. The bike, which is designed with a semi-enclosed driver's cab, is intended to withstand minor bumps without needing to be repaired and can be easily repaired thanks to specially designed flexible crash elements. The robustness of the design was demonstrated in a video in which the electrically pedal-assisted cargo bike, which can reach speeds of up to 25 km/h, climbed a flight of stairs unscathed.

The components are based on automotive standards and the windshield with wiper is a module from the Renault Twizy light electric vehicle. The modular design is intended to make the bike flexibly configurable, while the full suspension and a seat developed in-house as well as a keyless entry system increase driver comfort. Two cubic meters of cargo space are formally available in the exchangeable container body. An interesting approach is also the lightweight textile skin that envelops the vehicle and gives it its shape, but also provides weather protection.

The company's roots lie in Bochum University of Applied Sciences, where vehicles between e-bikes and electric cars have been developed under the umbrella of since 2015. The first "Antric One" was also developed here in the summer of 2020. The company plans to start series production in 2022. 

Maximize uptime and minimize problems

Tire specialist Michelin has also set its sights on reducing repair and maintenance costs for cargo bikes. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the company recently presented a prototype of the "MICHELIN X Tweel" airless tire for eCargo cargo bikes from Coaster Cycles.

"The challenges in this market are very complex," said Tony Marconi, Michelin's general manager responsible for the Tweel business. "We know that the last mile in delivery is often the most expensive. With our Tweel airless radial tire technology, we've already demonstrated in other areas how we prevent flat tires, maximize uptime and minimize problems."

The "MICHELIN X TWEEL Airless" radial tire is a complete wheel-tire combination that replaces the tire, rim and valve. Once mounted, there is no need to check air pressure. Damping by polyester resin spokes is said to reduce the vibrations typical of tires. Driving behavior is said to be comparable with pneumatic tires.