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Two-year User Survey Signifies Great Future for E-Cargo Bikes

Sales & Trends

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands – “E-Cargo Bikes are a great alternative for some 20 percent of all delivery vans currently operating in large cities.” This is the conclusion of a recently published two-year study into the use of “Light Electric Freight Vehicles” for city logistics by the Amsterdam and Rotterdam Universities of Applied Sciences together with logistics operators, distributors, vehicle suppliers, knowledge institutions and municipalities. Despite the predictions of a great future the study also signals that “Various practical technical problems still have to be solved.”

Two-year User Survey Signifies Great Future for E-Cargo Bikes
Study concludes ‘1 in 5 service vans in inner cities can be replaced with e-Cargo Bikes.’ – Photo Velove

There’s a lot going on now regarding cargo bikes. It’s even said to be the next big trend after e-bikes which was emphasized at last July’s Eurobike. Various big names within the industry are already preparing for this great future. Like dealer cooperative ZEG which founded an (e) cargo bike dedicated company named A-N.T. Or like Accell Group that recently took over 100 percent of the shares in Velosophy; maker of the Babboe branded cargo bikes. Even automotive giant Volkswagen included a cargo e-bike as part of its solution for sustainable goods transport in urban regions. Furthermore, the (future) significance of this upcoming category is underlined by the fact that in September 2017 development started for a special safety standard for cargo bikes.  What the potential is of (electric) Cargo Bikes, is now clear on the basis of years of study on the use of these Light Electric Freight Vehicles (LEVV’s).

Report on LEVV-LOGIC project

What this study underlines is that e-Cargo Bikes are especially suited for “Time-critical deliveries, parcels, mail and smaller shipments in the food, building and service logistics. In cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands this would involve 3,000 to 4,000 e-Cargo Bikes, especially bicycle and moped-like models.”

But the study also reveals that “Despite this potential, few logistics service providers and shippers currently feel the urge to use these light electric delivery vehicles. That’s because the use of compact distribution vehicles, particularly by SMEs, is still relatively expensive compared to the electric delivery vans, which have a larger payload, higher maximum speed and larger operating range.”

This is concluded in the final report of the Light Electric Freight Vehicles LEVV-LOGIC project. That report was recently explained during a well-attended meeting under the leadership of logistics specialist Walther Ploos van Amstel at the Amsterdam university.

Interesting alternative

Amongst other reasons the demand for this study arose due to the fact that currently almost one million delivery vans are driving around in the Netherlands. These vans take up an increasingly important role in urban logistics because of the growth in online purchases by consumers and businesses; changing consumer demands resulting in smaller and more time-critical shipments as well as the growth of the catering industry for hotels and restaurants and the increase in construction and renovation works.

According to the participants in the LEVV-LOGIC survey, that growth in delivery vans does not benefit the liveability and attractiveness of cities and residential areas; think of traffic jams, road safety and air pollution. “So using light electric vehicles (or e-Cargo Bikes) is an interesting alternative. We can conclude that with these vehicles we can replace 10 to 15 percent of the deliveries by traditional vans. We looked at profitability, fitting the goods and the technology available. We do not yet have all the technology on board for the LEVVs. All in all, there is an interesting market for this type of vehicle,” emphasized Lector City Logistics, Walther Ploos van Amstel, who was closely involved in this research.

Large companies already using LEVVs

The study says “At present LEVVs are available in various shapes and sizes, but basically they are a bicycle, a motor vehicle or a compact vehicle with electric support or drive. The use of these vehicles mainly focuses on the distribution of goods in an inner-city environment with a limited speed and range. Large Dutch online platforms companies such as Coolblue, Bol.com, Wehkamp and Picnic are already executing part of their deliveries with e-cargo bikes. Also postal and parcel companies such as PostNL, UPS, DPD and DHL are rolling out networks in Europe with these light electric delivery vehicles.

“The LEVV is also used in service logistics for instance at TV provider Ziggo, heating specialist Feenstra and Coca-Cola. In small to medium-sized enterprises, a new generation of city distributors is using this vehicle, like City Hub, Fietskoeriers.nl, E-Bakkie and Byondo,” which recently also presented their solutions to the participants of the meeting.

Growth of e-cargo bikes: opportunity or threat

The LEVV-LOGIC survey focused on the question whether SMEs, and logistic service providers, feel the need of using these light electric delivery vehicles. At the moment the conclusion is that most of them still feel little urgency to use LEVVs in city logistics. It is also expected that local authorities will not introduce vehicle restrictions on a large scale. Moreover, the electric delivery van is becoming an increasingly better alternative to the diesel delivery van. “Challenges in this form of sustainable transport are the limited cargo space, range and speed. With this vehicle you cannot hit the highway. The LEVV/e-Cargo Bike still has an uncertain status in traffic despite the fact that they have undeniably many advantages. For example, easily parking an e-Cargo Bike on the pavement in front of a customer’s door or access to places that a traditional van cannot reach”, stated Susanne Balm, LEVV-LOGIC project leader.

For small and light shipments

The authors of the research conclude that the use of e-Cargo Bikes mainly offers opportunities in niche markets that focus on low costs or a conscious image. “SMEs that want to successfully use this advantages must opt for market segments with suitable logistic characteristics, such as small and light shipments, high network density, time-critical shipments and of course, with sufficient opportunities for future growth. The biggest opportunities of LEVVs we see in the food business. One Dutch example ‘Picnic’ is now also developing their own electric vehicles. Moreover they have experienced enormous advantages by being able to get anywhere with relatively small electric vans thanks to a smart planning concept. Service logistics too offers a lot of opportunities. We estimate that 1 in 5 service vans in the inner city can be replaced with LEVVs.”

Innovative image

The final report on the 2-year research continues with “Use of LEVVs/e-Cargo Bikes requires a good location of hubs, next to robust processes, supporting ICT, collaborating employees and a good organization. LEVVs are for this type of activity, delivering in city-environment, cheaper and more reliable than, for example, the delivery van. This is possible due to lower vehicle costs, shorter driving times and access to districts with low-traffic areas or restrictions on freight traffic. In addition, there are market segments for logistic services with these sustainable vehicles in which a social, distinctive or innovative image is part of the proposition.”

 

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