THE MICRO HUB CONCEPT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO REVOLUTIONIZE LAST-MILE URBAN DELIVERY BY TAKING VEHICLES OFF THE STREETS, CUTTING EMISSIONS AND SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCING DELIVERY TIMES.
Western Europe, and it’s likely to spread. In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of last-mile delivery and improve the efficiency of what can be a time-consuming, laborious process, micro hubs deploying electric bikes have sprung up in major cities in Germany and the Netherlands.
A project in Berlin, called KoMoDo, has five of Germany’s biggest parcel service providers, DHL, UPS, GLS, Hermes and DPD, working under one roof to test the collaborative use of a micro depot in combination with last-mile delivery via cargo bikes. Each operator has access to its own 14m² (150ft2) container at the depot, provided and managed by the Berlin port and warehouse company BEHALA. “Our packages are delivered to the hub by conventional trucks, then distributed in busy city districts using the Cubicycle, an e-cargo bike that can carry a specialized container with a load of up to 125kg [276 lb],” says Marc Rüffer, head of operations at DHL Parcel (see The bikes, page 67). “While the micro depot has been provided by the Senate of Berlin and is collectively used by the companies involved, each player still coordinates deliveries on its own,” adds Michael Peuker, project manager of new mobility at Hermes. “What’s unique about the project is that for the first time all major parcel delivery services in Germany are taking part.” Meanwhile a few hundred miles away in the Netherlands, PostNL has been rolling out micro hubs in seven of its biggest cities, and has developed a consolidation hub outside Amsterdam via its City Logistics program. The micro hubs project has been launched for the same reasons as the Berlin project: to reduce congestion, improve air quality and speed up delivery.
“In Amsterdam, and in collaboration with local removal company Deudekom, we are running a large consolidation hub just outside the city,” says Rogier Havelaar, general manager of City Logistics, PostNL. “The hub was chosen because of its strategic location, close to our other facilities, and its proximity to Amsterdam and the highways. From the hub, several companies deliver all the goods that need to be delivered in the city. They use either electric vans, a small e-vehicle called Stint, or e-bikes. Then within Amsterdam and six other major cities we have installed micro hubs where small e-vehicles and e-cargo bikes are stored and can be charged. With cargo bikes we deliver parcels and mail inside the city in a sustainable and lowcongestion way.”
Key aims Both the KoMoDo pilot and the City Logistics program chime with their countries’ environmental postal strategies. For Hermes in Germany, that means Urban Blue, a guarantee to make emission-free deliveries in the inner-city areas of 80 German cities by 2025, and to substitute one bike for every van. The Netherlands has declared its plans to establish an emission-free last mile in its 25 largest city centers. As in Germany, this is a collaboration between public and private business, and local and national government, and is part of a larger project where PostNL is considering how it will shape the future of cities. “We know everything is getting busier and local governments want more sustainable centers,” explains Havelaar. The KoMoDo trial period began in May, currently involves one district in the city of Berlin, and will last around a year. The aim is to see if e-cargo bikes are a realistic building block on this road and can compete with delivery vans in terms of efficiency, particularly as parcel volumes increase. “A van still has to drive into the city every morning to equip the micro hub, but from there the bike couriers take over,” comments Peuker. “During the day the parcel delivery is done in a clean, space-saving way and with only a fraction of the noise. If this could be scaled up in a future scenario, there would be fewer vans on the streets and therefore less congestion. KoMoDo’s one-year trial period is perfect for us to collect reliable figures and data about this along with the interplay between distribution center, micro hub and cargo bikes.” DHL staff ride the bikes and use a Motorola TC55 mobile computer for navigation. Hermes works with service partners who employ the couriers, with Hermes themselves providing the digital route planning system. All bikes are supported by electric motors, and in flat cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam, pedaling should be fairly easy.
Both DHL and Hermes are testing the same bike under a different name and configuration. The recumbent Hermes Armadillo e-cargo bike from Swedish startup Velove is also known as the DHL Cubicycle. The former uses a semi-trailer. The DHL deploys a reloadable secure box the size of a Euro pallet.
Width: 56cm (22in)
Length: 305cm (120in)
Height: 156cm (61in)
Weight: 59kg (130 lb)
Turning radius: 5.8m (19ft)
Cargo capacity: 150kg (330 lb)
Container volume: 1m3 (35ft3)
Size: 80 x 120 x 100cm (31 x 47 x 39in)
Electric assist: 250W
Range: 50km (31 miles) on two 0.5kWh batteries
Price DHL Cubicycle: €2,200
Price DHL Cubicycle container: €2,500
Along with the Armadillo, Hermes is trialling the upright Movr e-cargo bike, complete with semi-trailer, from Rytle, a startup from Bremen, Germany. The bike has four key components: An electric bike, box (changeable transport container), hub (Euro pallet that acts as an urban micro-depot), and IT solution, inclusive of app and dashboard.
Width: 120cm (47in)
Length: 270cm (106in)
Height: 200cm (79in)
Weight: 450kg (fully loaded with driver) (992 lb)
Cargo capacity: 200kg (441 lb)
Container volume: Rear container – 1.75m³ (62ft3),
front box – 0.25m³ (8.9ft3)
Size: 120 x 80 x 180cm (47 x 31 x 71in)
Electric assist: 250W (Pedelec25)
Range: 60-100km (37-62 miles)
Price: Low five-digit range
Veröffentlicht: September 2018 von Saul Wordsworth, Postal and Parcel Technology international (page 64)