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The rise of e-cargo bikes

You can expect to see a new type of road user in town centres this autumn. Zero emission last mile delivery services are being operated by a rising number of e-cargo bike companies.

In Glasgow, a community-based cycling organisation is using a fleet of e-cargo bikes for last mile deliveries in the city. Funded by the Scottish Power Energy Networks’ Green Economy Fund, SoulRiders are using an initial five e-cargo bike fleet as part of its service to deliver food to some of the city’s most vulnerable communities. The organisation has ambitious plans to eventually switch to solar power to charge the e-cargo bikes off the grid.

Once goods are delivered to distribution depots and retailers by HGVs and vans, these new e-cargo delivery services see their role as picking up and delivering within congested city centres. They argue that switching from vans to e-cargo bikes for the last mile increases business margins by offering strategic advantages such as same hour delivery slot capability at short notice. Delivery time slots governed by customer preference rather than physical and financial constraints of the retailer’s e-commerce platform.

As well as filtering through congested streets, e-cargo bikes are exempt from parking tickets, congestion charges, speeding fines, T-Charge, or ULEZ charges. The average speed of e-cargo bikes currently operating in London is 12.5mph.

In terms of capacity, while they can’t compete with a van, many models boast a capacity of 480 litres and a payload of 125kg in front and rear lockable boxes. Rechargeable batteries can be swapped out in a matter of seconds allowing them to run 24hrs a day, 365 days a year without downtime.

A recent round of government funding enabled eighteen local authorities to secure funding for a total of 273 e-cargo bikes. Local authorities across England were invited to bid for up to £200,000 each to purchase e-cargo bikes for use by local businesses or deployment within their own fleets. Exeter have used the funding to secure 13 e-cargo bikes, of which 2 will be used by the local hospital’s adult and social care teams to help care for the most isolated people in the city.Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, said: “It is exciting to see the strength and breadth of applications supported by the eCargo Bike Grant Fund. We received 58 applications and the 18 local authorities who have been successful in securing funding offered compelling cases for e-cargo bikes across a range of activity.”Additionally, funding was allocated through the fund’s national scheme offering limited companies and organisations up to 20% grant funding towards e-cargo bikes.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Cycling Minister, said: “This funding will see groceries and other shopping delivered to people’s doors by bike instead of vans, helping ensure that as transport increases and we recover from Covid-19, it’ll be cleaner and greener than ever before.”

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3rd of September 2020

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