These tiny cargo bikes want to revolutionize urban delivery

Delivery drivers spend almost 30 percent of their time looking for parking spots for their trucks, according to this study. When they don’t find one, they often end up blocking traffic. A German startup is determined to put an end to such messy logistics by coming up with a viable alternative.

Called Ono, the startup developed a new electric delivery vehicle that, while looking like a tiny truck from the side, is actually a smart cargo-carrying bike that is narrow enough to move through traffic and even fit on a bike lane when necessary.

As a growing number of delivery companies move toward electric vehicles, Ono believes that it’s also essential to make these vehicles as compact as possible. This is especially important since e-commerce is only expected to grow at a time when roads are already crowded.

“The physical footprint of an Ono is only a quarter of the size compared to an electric truck,” says CEO Beres Seelbach. “So it causes no more traffic jams and is much easier and more flexible to operate.” It’s also cheaper to maintain. And like other electric vehicles, it also eliminates emissions and air pollution.

While a van may have more space for boxes, Ono’s e-bikes can compete by moving quickly and refilling at strategic transportation hubs in the city. There, a new cargo container can be loaded on the back of the bike in almost no time.

“Ono could work as a stand-alone delivery solution in a dense sector and within a radius,” says Seelbach. “But it is exponentially more interesting for operators when combined with so-called city hubs, and in this case, Ono vehicles replace traditional delivery trucks.” The cargo units are delivered to the city hubs by truck at off-peak hours, and then the bikes can handle the final deliveries.

Though tiny, Ono’s vehicles feature enclosed cabins to protect the driver from the weather. Drivers use an RFID chip instead of a key to make it as easy as possible to unlock and start the vehicle. Also, the cargo boxes are designed to be rapidly changed.

After running a number of successful pilots, the company is launching its delivery vehicles in four different German cities this fall. By 2025, it aims to have 14,000 vehicles operating in more than 60 cities.

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