Delivering packages in the world’s densely crowded cities is a challenge. Delivering them without creating harmful emissions is an even bigger challenge. This week, Luke Wake, UPS vice president of fleet maintenance and engineering, told Reuters his company is about to begin trials in London of 100 eQuad electric cargo bikes designed and built by British firm Fernhay.
If those trials are successful, they will be expanded to 7 European markets and cities in the US and China using vehicles built by other manufacturers. At only 36″ wide, the eQuad can legally use designated bicycle lanes, giving the access to places where ordinary vehicles cannot go. UPS, like other package delivery companies, is seeking new ways to meet expanded demand caused by a surge in e-commerce at reduced cost and with fewer emissions.
The eQuad has an electric-assisted top speed of around 25 km/h (15.5 mph) and can carry up to 200 kilograms (441 lb) of packages. Its electric battery has a range of around 64 km (40 miles), which Wake says is more than adequate for urban routes.
He says UPS sees an opportunity to scale up the use of the bikes in megacities and as a complement to its fleet of delivery vans and trucks. “There are more and more opportunities for zero-emission solutions like this that can alleviate inner-city congestion. It can also help our operations be more efficient at the same time.” FedEx and DHL are also experimenting with electric cargo bikes as part of their own zero emission package delivery plans.
Fernhay says a 4-wheel layout and a low center of gravity were necessary to maintain stability in such a narrow vehicle. A low load area and high seat allow for operators as well as other cyclists to see around or over the eQuad. “Reduced fatigue and parcel drop rates influence our step through design, the position of the pedals and seat as well as wheel placement,” the company says.
The front suspension absorbs bumps in the road and enhances stability, while hydraulic brakes on the front wheels allow the driver to control the eQuad with ease. “A key design decision for us was to produce an attractive vehicle. We want to be part of a movement back to cycling and walking at the core of city life,” Fernhay says.
Kudos to UPS for its constant search for better ways to serve its customers with zero emissions vehicles.