shopping transport

Electric cargo bikes for zero emission deliveries

Yesterday I wrote about the need to reduce emissions from deliveries, since the growth of online shopping is driving growing demand for courier services. One of the most obvious things to do is run electric vans, but in cities we can go one better than that: cargo bikes.

Cargo bikes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I’ve seen people taking their kids to school in them, and London caterers that delivery food with them. Deliveroo uses them, and the Post Office had them until recently. They’d be a bit of a pain in hilly Luton, but in flatter cities they make good sense. The big challenge with online deliveries is the ‘final mile’, the run from the nearest depot to our actual homes. Delivery staff on normal bikes wouldn’t be able to carry many packages at once, but cargo bikes could.

DHL have spotted this opportunity, and they have been trialling electric cargo bikes in Germany and the Netherlands. More specifically, they’re trying out a trailer called a ‘city hub’, with mini-containers that are carried by a ‘cubicycle’:

The solar-roofed containers are delivered on a trailer, which drives into the city centre. The four containers are then loaded straight from the trailer onto the bikes for the final mile. Cubicycle riders cover 50 km a day on average, with containers that can carry as much as 125kg. But they do have electric assisted pedalling to help them out.

The cubicycle is a relatively new step for DHL, but the company already has considerable experience with cargo bikes. In some European cities, 60% of deliveries are done by cargo bikes. Since they don’t get stuck in traffic, experience shows that they can make twice as many stops per hour as a van. In this case, the greener option is also the faster one.

Not every city is suitable for cargo bikes, but London and Cambridge have them in good numbers. A company called Outspoken Delivery runs them in both cities, as well as Norwich and Glasgow. There are several companies building or marketing cargo bikes, and growing interest. Since they’re cheaper and more efficient than running vans into town centres, I hope we’ll see a lot more of them.


  1. how sad that they’re getting rid of bikes for the post office :C i wish people still wrote letters. I write them to my mom from uni and there’s a certain sentimentality about hand written and hand delivered things!

    1. My wife would agree. She’s trying to write to a friend a week at the moment, the old fashioned way. Not sure why the PO is getting rid of bikes while other companies are bringing them in, bit of a mystery to me.

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