The future of low-carbon transportation and logistics is the bike.
Or at least it’s the latest environmentally sustainable mode of delivering packages to be employed by UPS, which uses tens of thousands of other low-emissions vehicles in its worldwide fleet.
Last week the logistics company’s first electric tricycle began delivering packages in Portland, Oregon. UPS says its eBike furthers its commitment to reduce carbon emissions as city populations and e-commerce grow, presenting increasing traffic, noise and air quality challenges.
“Early in our 109 year history, UPS operated as a bike messenger company,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability, in a statement. “While we have evolved and developed a vast network of ground and air vehicles, the bicycle may be making a comeback as we navigate through crowded urban areas and continue our focus on environmental sustainability.”
UPS piloted its eBike program in 2012 in partnership with the city of Hamburg, Germany. UPS placed four containers at central locations in the city for interim storage of packages for UPS service providers. From these points, deliveries were made on foot or with specialized bicycles called Cargo Cruisers, UPS’s electronically assisted tricycles.
The eBike program helped ease traffic congestion and reduce emissions, UPS says. In February 2015, the city extended the program for two more years.
UPS already uses traditional bicycles for delivery in Portland. The eBike, which has a battery-powered electric motor, will make it possible to cover further distances and carry more packages over hills and other difficult terrain, the company says.
The eBike can be operated solely on battery power or pedal power. During the testing phase, UPS will evaluate the reliability, design, integration to the city’s infrastructure and acceptance of the vehicle.
If successful, UPS plans to deploy and test additional eBikes in other locations next year.
By the end of 2016, UPS will have invested more than $750 million in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations globally since 2009. It deploys the more than 7,700 vehicles in what it calls its “Rolling Laboratory” to determine what works best in each situation. These low-carbon technologies include electric and hybrid electric vehicles in the US, and natural gas, renewable natural gas and propane globally.
UPS beat its clean energy goal of driving 1 billion miles in its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet one year earlier than planned, according to the company’s most recent sustainability report, published in August.