Are e-cargo bikes the future of delivery?

E-cargo bikes could soon be delivering your online orders.

It’s hard to fathom that there was once a time before online ordering and home delivery.

The NYC DOT Cargi B e-cargo bike.

So many of us are reliant on the convenience: USPS alone ships an estimated 23.8m packages a day — that’s 275.5 packages every second — and the average American received 20 packages via USPS in 2022.

All those packages mean tons of delivery trucks taking to, and sometimes clogging up, our streets. To solve the problem, companies around the world have been testing e-cargo bikes as a solution:

  • FedEx introduced e-cargo bikes for some UK deliveries back in 2021, and rolled out updated models this year that can carry ~375 pounds over 45+ miles with one battery charge. The company said that 100% of newly added vehicles will be electric by 2030.
  • DHL trialed e-cargo bike deliveries in Edinburgh in 2021, and has since rolled out bicycle delivery in other cities with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Amazon UK opened delivery hubs in London and Manchester in 2022 for e-cargo bike and walking deliveries as part of its $359m investment toward electrification and decarbonization.

And cities themselves are taking action: Manchester, England, made 26 e-cargo bikes and six trailers available to city businesses and residents in 2022 through a $217.7k grant program.

Most recently…

… New York City — which sees ~2.4m-3.7m packages delivered every day — unveiled Cargi B, its first Department of Transportation e-cargo bike, per Curbed.

DOT also formalized rules for e-cargo bikes in March: Bikes have a speed limit of 15 mph, can never idle on the sidewalk, and can’t exceed 16 feet in length.

It comes at a serendipitous time for companies. NYC congestion pricing goes into effect June 30, saddling trucks with $24-$36 in daily fees to enter below 60th Street in Manhattan. E-cargo bikes could potentially save companies ~$13k a year.

The extra mile

The last-mile delivery space is a crowded one because the stakes are so high: Getting packages from a central warehouse to a customer’s home accounts for as much as 50% of total carbon emissions from deliveries.

E-cargo bikes might need to get in line to be the darlings of deliveries — autonomous vehicles and drones have been vying for that title.

Although, the AV rollout has not been a flawless one. Neither has the drone idea, come to think of it. So e-cargo bikes might just have a chance to pull ahead.

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