The final step in parcel delivery is called the “last mile”. It is essentially the stage of a product’s journey from a warehouse, into a truck, and finally to the buyer’s doorstep. While key to customer satisfaction, this final step is also overwhelmingly inefficient.
This is because the final leg of a package’s shipment often involves gas-fueled trucks making multiple stops with low drop sizes. These journeys often take place in already congested city centers, further contributing to heavy traffic and pollution.
One company, called AxleHire, is working to revolutionize delivery logistics and tackle these inefficiencies. After a number of different pilot projects, the company’s latest development is taking place in Los Angeles, where it is opening four “microhubs” which will serve as bases for a new cargo model, reports Fast Company.
As part of the initiative, deliveries will take off from each hub in containers fitted onto electric bikes. The aim is to increase parcel volume, reduce time spent in traffic, and slash the carbon footprint of each journey.
The program uses a network of cargo e-bikes, called URB-E, with the goal of achieving the “containerization of the last mile,” explains URB-E cofounder Sven Etzelsberger. Once a container is strategically packed, it is hooked to an e-bike, which then continues to complete the last stage of the shipment process. The containers are essentially designed to replace vans or trucks, and thus remove the need of filling up vehicles with individual parcels.
At 75 cubic feet, each container is less spacious than a truck, but time is equally important of a factor as volume, explains AxleHire CEO Adam Bryant. When having to deliver multiple packages at different addresses, a truck stuck in traffic is likely to complete fewer orders than an e-bike unabatedly makings its way on the bike path. On top of that, according to URB-E, e-bikes have the potential to emit 95 percent fewer carbon emissions than a diesel van, and even up to 70 percent less compared to an electric van.
In a world where consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce to do most of their shopping, having more delivery trucks on the road could really take a toll on the well-being of our urban spaces. Container-carrying cargo bikes seem like a good solution to avoid that kind of scenario.