Tag Archive: last mile

  1. Prague’s cargo bike boom – a case study for urban last-mile deliveries

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    Source: Autonomy Network

    Prague remains a key location for cargo bike urban integration, having opened two city center depots. After operating for a sustained period, the success of the scheme can now be evaluated.

    Prague’s two cargo bike depots opened in 2020 and 2021 respectively, being recognized by the 2021 Eurocities Awards as a low-carbon alternative to last-mile van delivery. The principal is simple, a van drops off packages at the central depot, which are then delivered across the city via cargo bike. In Prague, hilly terrain leads to a preference for e-cargo bikes, allowing riders to tackle tougher terrain with ease. Thus far, each depot has delivered approximately 7,000 orders per month, with each location housing up to eight companies.

    Successful collaboration between public and private sectors

    Operating companies pay a small fee to cover depot running costs, and hence, the city administration does not have to contribute a stake in the project outside of the initial construction cost. For a relatively low price, the depot helps to achieve Prague’s long-term vision to promote cycling and change its citizens’ attitudes to this means of transport. The depot also contributes to the city’s pledge to lower its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050.

    The project is a good example of cooperation between different actors. The pilot project was approved by the city council based on a study by the Prague Institute of Planning and Development. It took only three months to execute the proposal. Ekolo, the company setting up and running the depot, attributes this success to intense cooperation between the logistics firm and city-run companies.

    Domestic firm (Dámejídlo, Zásilkovna, Rohlík or WEDO) and international firms (DHL, Dascher, GLS) both profit from the innovation. Twelve enterprises use the two depots at present, but Adam Scheinherr, mayor’s deputy for transportation, is in talks with companies that could not be accommodated in the first depots. A representative of Ekolo started helping with similar cargo bike projects in London, Copenhagen, and Lille.

    Potential to inspire future action and lessons learned

    As the largest depots of their kind, Prague’s cargo bike scheme offers both a point of inspiration and a case study from which to learn. Of course, it is commonly accepted that electric cargo bikes are an optimal delivery vehicle; speedy, quiet, low polluting, cheaper, accessible, etc. however, new insight can now be utilized to further improve customer and driver experience.

    The key lessons learned for future projects were:

    • More depots are required: This will minimize driver distance and reduce delivery times.
    • Unsustainable trends must still be recognized: Overconsumption and the negative impact of deliveries and packaging are still prominent issues for the majority of parcel lifetimes. More localized production is required.
    • Worker experience must be improved: One recent example concerns an online grocery store, Rohlik.cz, one of the companies using the depot. The firm reduced the couriers’ wages (despite having almost doubled its profit last year), sparking public concern. Other difficulties of this job came to light, namely long working hours, lack of social security, and uncertain wages.
  2. Keep it simple – the new Pendix eDrive IN

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    At the last IAA mobility, LEVA-EU member Pendix, market leader for retrofit drives in the bicycle market, presented a revolutionary drive that is to be used mainly in the B2B sector for cargo bikes. This gives Pendix an additional pillar for the retrofit drive, because the Pendix eDrive IN creates new possibilities for bicycle construction, but is installed directly by the OEMs. There are already numerous interested parties and pre-orders, although the drive has not yet been delivered. Christian Hennig was in charge of the development. We spoke to him about the drive.

    The Pendix eDrive IN is available as an innovative serial hybrid variant and in combination with a chain drive, i.e. a mechanical drive train. How did the idea come about?

    The market for cargo bikes is growing and growing, the bikes are also becoming more and more popular in the professional sector. We have therefore thought about how we can meet the requirements for an electric drive specifically for this application. Both privately and commercially used bikes should focus on the necessary performance in order to be able to move heavy loads safely and comfortably. Of course, reliability also plays an important role, especially if a cargo bike is to be used as a replacement for a car.

    The new drive system caused quite a stir at the IAA in Munich. Why?

    The serial hybrid system in particular is better suited for cargo bikes by one decisive characteristic. By using a pedal generator, all mechanical wear parts of the conventional drive train such as chains, chainrings, or sprockets are eliminated. This increases reliability and significantly reduces maintenance costs. In addition, the entire space between the wheels can be used.

    How does the Pendix serial hybrid version work?

    The system basically consists of a pedal generator, one or more drive motors, and a battery. The pedal generator is located on the bottom bracket, which converts the mechanical pedaling movement of the rider into electrical energy and then transmits this directly to the drive motors in the rear wheels. The generator can generate torque to give the rider a natural pedaling feel, very similar to that of a conventional bike. In addition to the driver’s performance, additional energy is supplied to the drive motors from a battery in order to ensure the necessary performance for moving a cargo bike safely and comfortably.

    Where do you see potential uses for the new drive?

    I see possible uses in cargo bikes where it is important to use the available space in the best possible way. In newer vehicle concepts, in particular, one often sees a very elaborately designed drive train with up to four chains connected in series in order to mechanically transmit the power from the driver to the rear wheels. This is exactly where there is a great advantage since the installation space can be used. In addition, many wearing parts of the mechanical power transmission are eliminated, which often cause unwanted downtimes of the bicycle, especially with intensively used cargo bikes.

    There are already other manufacturers who also offer a serial hybrid drive. Are there any significant differences in the functions? What are the advantages of your product?

    In principle, the functionality and range of functions of the various systems are quite similar. Our previous Pendix eDrive system was always developed according to the principle of “keep it simple”, and we are continuing this with this product. Generator and drive motors are based on the same engine concept and have been optimized in terms of function. Here, too, we offer a system in which the components come from a single source and are perfectly matched to each other. Functions such as gear shifting or reversing can be solved by software in the future. Of course, our proven Pendix.bike PRO app will also be used with this product in order to be able to provide the rider with useful information, customization of the riding profile and firmware updates over-the-air, and at the same time to support the service partner with diagnosis.

    At the end of the day, is the vehicle actually still a pedelec?

    This question can be answered with a clear yes. After years of back and forth, the European Commission decided at the beginning of 2022 that bicycles with a serial-hybrid drive system are on an equal footing with conventional pedelecs with a mechanical drive train. In order to maintain technology neutrality, it doesn’t matter whether the bike is equipped with a mechanical chain or not – as long as the drive only provides support and the rider also pedals. For us, our new drive was the next step in bicycle evolution right from the development stage. That’s why we’re happy to now also have support from Brussels.

  3. Autonomous robot trialled for last-mile deliveries in Helsinki

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    Electric parcel delivery robot will do the rounds for 1 month

    Source: TheMayor.eu and Forum Virium Helsinki

    Facing a growing population and increasing logistics challenges, the City of Helsinki has opted for a truly modern solution. The people of Jätkäsaari district will enjoy the opportunity to collect their packages from an autonomous and environmentally-friendly electric delivery robot, as part of a trial scheme lasting from November 2 to December 10 2021.

    The city has an innovation company called Forum Virium Helsinki, which has teamed up with the start-up LMAD, GIM Robotics, and DB Schenker, to find out how an autonomous delivery robot can facilitate improvements to urban logistics. It is specifically the area of last-mile delivery which presents the most challenges, and opportunities.

    As for the practical delivery of the service, customers simply select DB Schenker and the LMAD robot when placing an order. Much like any other courier service, they will receive a link for setting their delivery preferences, and at this point they choose their preferred time and location from a set route. When the robot arrives at that spot, it sends a code to the recipient, who can then unlock and collect the package.

    Antti Jarva, who is in charge of DB Schenker’s package business in Finland said, “DB Schenker is actively involved in the innovation of the logistics industry. In Finland, we have developed package pick-up points in particular to facilitate smooth flows of goods to various residential environments. We study the use of delivery robots as one pick-up point solution for densely populated urban areas”.

    LMAD is the company who operates the robot. Co-founder and Product Lead Gergely Horváth said, “For us, this is an excellent opportunity to test an autonomous delivery service with the residents of Jätkäsaari. We want to learn how our solution brings additional value to both residents and our partner, DB Schenker. Our aim is to offer a service that is a convenient, flexible and environmentally friendly option while simultaneously reducing logistics costs”.

    During the pilot, the robot is accompanied by an operator who ensures safe and smooth execution. Moving at walking speed, it employs sophisticated sensors and lidar technology, to observe and react to its surroundings, and stop for any obstacles.

    Photo credit: Forum Virium Helsinki
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