E-bike package delivery is coming to L.A. Micro Hubs

E-bikes carry packages and drop hubs around the city and get stuck in traffic.

  The e-bike package delivery is coming to L.A.

  The final stage of the package’s journey to its destination, known as the “last mile”, is usually the most inefficient of the entire trip.  This is because packages are usually divided into several different gas-fueled vehicles moving in different directions, often into crowded urban centres, reducing delivery speed and increasing environmental toll.

  One company that works to reduce these inefficiencies is Urban Logistics Innovator, AxleHire.  After running various pilots to evaluate solutions, its latest development is a large-scale delivery service program in Los Angeles;  Opening four “micro hubs” in the city, which serve as the basis for the new commodity model.  Distributions leave each hub in containers pulled by electric bikes. 

Goal: Increase delivery loads, reduce traffic time and reduce carbon emissions.

  The program uses a network of freight-carrying e-bikes, called URB-E, with the goal of achieving “last-mile containerization,” says URB-E cofounder and chief technology officer Sven Etzelsberger, Ford’s former engineer.  And the Porsche. 

E-bikes simply hitch a caravan loaded with apre-packed vessel. “ We accept we can bring around the same effectiveness that these holders brought back to global trade in the 50s and 60s,” he says. 

Containers serve as direct replacements for vans or trucks, negating the confusing need to fill vehicles with separate parcels.  “This is really the vision of containerization,” he says.

  The containers have 72 cubic feet width.  “It’s the size of a small wardrobe,” says Etzelsberger.  Still, it’s less spacious than a truck.  But, AxleHire CEO Adam Bryant explains, time is just as important as volume.  While many small items, such as envelopes or polybags, are to be delivered, a truck sitting in traffic is less likely to deliver than an e-bike flying behind cars parked in the bike lane.  What’s more, the URB-E saves 95% of its carbon emissions against a diesel van and 65% to 70% compared to an electric van.

  The partnership has established four micro hubs: Long Beach is already open;  Next up is Downtown L.A., Glendale and Santa Monica.  Here’s how it works: Clients — Meal-Kit suppliers such as Hello Fresh, retailers like American Eagle Outfitters, and other e-commerce suppliers such as Deliver — bring their packages to Axelhair’s central assortment centre in La Palma, Orange County.  This is where AxleHire uses its algorithms to systematically sort packages into specific containers for different routes.

  Each day, containers are loaded into a single truck and transported in large quantities to micro hubs, which is as simple as parking lots – a place to store equipment at night and offload containers to trucks.  Each container is then plugged into an e-bike, and delivery riders begin their route, leaving parcels in homes and offices.

  Axel Hair has tested a number of other transportation solutions, including cargo bikes, electric vehicles and pallets, as well as food trucks at the Seattle Pilot with the University of Washington.  However, URB-E has won for absolute scalability and has partnered with New York City for deliveries since last August, proving a six-fold reduction in traffic and a three-fold reduction in the cost of electric vans.  They are more feasible for at-scale operations than smaller sidewalk robots.

  Assessing the initial responses from the Long Beach Hub operation, Etzelsberger residents report that they are happy to replace noisy, congested vehicles with a sustainable solution.  He says, “It’s great to see the reaction of people in the neighbourhood,” he says, “as they walk their dogs, and they see URB-E go.

Image: courtesy URB-E

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