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Electric bikes used for sustainable urban delivery

Innovative "depot-to-door" system reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions
Electric bikes used for sustainable urban delivery

In November 2017, UPS started testing a sustainable depot-to-door delivery system in central London. The Low Impact City Logistics project was designed to reduce traffic congestion and emissions associated with urban package delivery by using a power-assisted delivery trailer. If successful, it could change the way packages are delivered in cities in the UK.

Following a competitive pitch process, the project is a partnership of five organizations: UPS, product development company Fernhay, data specialists Skotkonung, University of Huddersfield, and cycle courier company Outspoken Delivery (now Zedify). The first of its type in the UK, the trial took place from UPS’s London depot.

Packages were loaded onto payload boxes at the depot and delivered by a single trailer to a central hub located within a busy urban area. The boxes are distributed from the hub via power-assisted trailers. The packages are then delivered to homes and businesses by bicycle or on foot.

The payload boxes are moved by electric-assisted trailers which feature patented net-neutral technology, which means the weight of the parcels — up to 200 kilograms — isn’t felt by the handler. This allows for increased last-mile deliveries in a sustainable manner. The trial featured bike trailers making deliveries in and around Camden during November and December.

“Low Impact City Logistics is a collaborative project that could revolutionize the way we deliver packages in our cities,” Peter Harris, Director of Sustainability of UPS Europe, said at the time of the announcement. “UPS has a long history of developing, deploying and promoting the use of more sustainable technology and delivery methods — and this collaboration will facilitate a one-of-a-kind urban delivery solution.”

The Low Impact City Logistics project is also part of a £10 million investment by Innovate UK in a range of collaborative research and development projects that improve the efficiency and experience of the end-to-end journey for people and freight.

Specialist product development firm Fernhay led the design and development of the prototype trailer and payload box, supported by the University of Huddersfield.

The project also includes optimization algorithms written by Skotkonung, through a GPS tracker fitted within the trailer allowing for continuous improvement in route speed and efficiency.

Outspoken Delivery (Zedify) conducted initial trials of the system earlier in 2017.


Traffic congestion and pollution are among the biggest problems in major metro areas. Local governments couldn't just sit idle doing nothing. Adding dedicated bike lanes is what many cities around the world have been doing in the past few years — and are still doing it. By embracing and promoting bike deliveries, municipalities could not only make better use of those lanes, but also help curb congestion and pollution, at the same time. This could either be an all-private initiative, but also the one helped by the (local) government — all while making for more efficient deliveries in densely populated areas.
Time to Implement
Cost to Implement
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Action point

Organize with a local post office or major courier (i.e. UPS, Fedex, TNT, major local courier, etc) to make local deliveries more sustainable, and even more efficient in densely populated areas. Provide partial funding if needed for what could be a private-public partnership.

The opportunity to organize local deliveries makes for good business and good PR. Such a project could be partially funded by the (local) government or an agency related to sustainable development. In the UK, the trial was partly funded by Innovate UK.