Since the Dieselgate scandal broke in 2015, reducing emissions is at the top of many cities’ agenda as the bulk of last mile deliveries are currently done by diesel powered light commercial vehicles (LCVs). Taking measures to restrict LCV use and promote Cargo bikes are becoming symbolic of this shift. 2018 is thus likely to be a key year in Europe in the evolution of the cargo bike either as an end technology in itself or as the father to electric assisted or powered cargo bikes.

For example, in July 2018, the UK Government’s Road to Zero Strategy promised to provide ‘grants and/or other financial incentives to support the use of e-cargo bikes.’ The franchise Zedify launched in the UK in June, bringing together several small, last mile urban bike freight companies. Elsewhere in Europe, DHL’s CityHub system, integrating vans, trailers, cargo boxes and bikes, began trialling in Utrecht in the Netherlands and Frankfurt in Germany. In addition, EU-funding is fostering and developing a latent transnational network of environmental campaigners in different cities eager to work with each other.

The group Cyclelogistics Ahead was set up with around £1m of EU funds in 2014. This year though two other cargo bike projects received funding from the Commission bringing the funding for them up to £12.3m. Through the scheme, cities like Mechlen in Belgium and Vienna in Austria have become key sites in the rolling out of cargo bikes. Key though are the associated technologies such as consolidation centres and IT platforms for the implementation of cargo bikes as favoured last mile delivery vehicles.

For example, a government-funded depot for last-mile deliveries has opened in Berlin. Called KOMODO, it brings together different companies that use cargo bikes under one roof with different companies getting their own 14 sq m shipping container to work from. If the enthusiasm continues, cargo bikes could become the preferred means of last mile delivery through crowded centres of old European cities.

Four types of cargo e-bikes

Utility bikes
Share many similarities with standard e-bikes with modifications to frame or wheel size to accommodate package racks. Their agility and limited cargo capacity make them best suited for small deliveries such as post or food orders. La Poste runs a fleet of 25,000 e-bikes of this type in France for its mail service.
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Box bikes
Have extended wheelbases to cater for a low mid-mounted box. Their low centre of gravity and narrow profile makes them suitable for heavy loads and city traffic. Sainsbury’s supermarkets are currently trialling a small fleet for grocery deliveries in Streatham, London.
02 Box

Have large capacity cargo platforms or boxes positioned between two wheels, which can be at the front or back of the bike. Can carry larger loads more securely, but are less manoeuvrable in traffic. FedEx, UPS and DPD are all trialling these for package deliveries in town centres.
03 Trike

Similar to trikes but these vehicles have four wheels and often boast recumbent seats. They offer the biggest hauling capacity of up to 150 kg but their cumbersome size means they cannot be used on a lot of cycling lanes. DHL Express are trialling e-Quads in The Netherlands.
04 Pedicab