UPS has dabbled with electric vehicles (EV), but it’s got a fun new project in London that deserves attention. In a move to better optimize EVs, UPS is starting an electric trailer delivery trial in London in anticipation of the city’s closure to gas cars.
When push comes to shove, the human mind is incredibly resourceful and finds more solutions than there are obstacles. Case in point: UPS testing an elegant depot-to-door delivery e-bike system powered by the trailer it carries to deliver its cargo. Simple, brilliant, and ingenious.
The trial started when the Low Impact City Logistics project was set in motion to tackle how to reduce traffic congestion and emissions in the city. As I watch an Amazon truck idling in front of my window while the driver looks for the correct home, I wonder how many times a day this happens, multiplying by the thousands of delivery vehicles in my city, nationally, so on, and so forth. An elegant solution would be to deliver these packages with a power-assisted e-bike hauling a trailer. This is what UPS is working on.
UPS, Fernhay, Skotkonung, University of Huddersfield, and Outspoken Delivery are partnering in the UK to test the concept. UPS is handling the depot-to-door delivery in London. How it works is simple. Packages at the UPS depot are shunted to a central hub within an urban area. They are then distributed on a battery-assisted trailer delivered by a bicycle or even on foot.
Low Impact City Logistics and UPS
Technically speaking, the electric trailers are weight-neutral. The weight of the cargo, which can go as far up as 440 lb (200 kilos) is unfelt by the bicyclist or walker. Think a Star Trek–like type of platform moving the heavy load but without the handler needing to haul anything — simply move in the right direction with the trailer pushing behind.
Hailed as a clean last-mile delivery system, UPS and its partners at the Low Impact City Logistics project are applying something we’ve seen countless of time in Sci-Fi movies and series but with today’s electric drivetrain.
According to Peter Harris, Director of Sustainability, UPS Europe: “Low Impact City Logistics is a collaborative project that could revolutionize the way we deliver packages in our cities. … UPS has a long history of developing, deploying and promoting the use of more sustainable technology and delivery methods – and this collaboration will facilitate a one-of-a-kind urban delivery solution.”
Led by the development company Fernhay, which designed the prototype trailer and payload box at the University of Huddersfield, Robin Haycock, Director at Fernhay, said: “A key feature is our IP protected, ‘net-neutral’ technology that stops the weight of the trailer being felt by the rider. … All drivers, regardless of their fitness level, will be able to make deliveries using our new system.”
Elegantly Tackling the Last-Mile Delivery Polluting Problem
Of course, as well all know by now ad nauseam, an EV is only as clean as its manufacturing and energy source., but a non-EV is completely dirty no matter what. Also, you can’t really find a 100% coal grid, and most grids (including the UK’s) are getting cleaner by the day and already have <50% coal market share.
With a £10 million investment by the UK government, Fernhay and UPS are able to tackle with their partners local air pollution, leaving it in a previous era. An electrically assisted delivery trailer with its own IP-protected technology is the future, and the future is here now.
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