UPS trials delivery by e-bike in (where else?) Portland

UPS e-bike delivery
© UPS (Pictured: Chairman & CEO David Abney)

Big Brown is now delivering some of its packages in Portland, Oregon, with a prototype electric-assist tricycle, with plans to deploy additional e-bike deliveries next year if successful.

Much of the time, when covering electric mobility topics such as e-bikes and electric cars, we tend to focus on the personal use of them, but there's also a huge opportunity for cleaning up transportation in a decidedly less sexy part of the sector, which is the local delivery and services market. I mean, riding an e-bike or driving an electric vehicle is probably always going to be a little bit much more exciting than watching a business-owned electric vehicle make a clean quiet delivery.

However, considering the sheer volume of delivery and service vehicles that are being driven in constant stop-and-go patterns throughout our cities each day, perhaps it's time we started cheering on those companies that are looking to low-carbon transportation solutions for their own operations, such as this pilot program from UPS.

According to UPS, the company deployed its first e-bike for deliveries in the US on November 21st, in Portland, Oregon. The city was said to be "a logical choice" for the initial e-bike delivery program, as the company is already using conventional bicycles for delivery there on a seasonal basis.

"The eBike is equipped with battery-powered electric motors that makes it possible to cover further distances, carry substantial loads, and navigate hills and other terrain. Maximum energy efficiency is achieved when combining battery power and human power simultaneously. 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." - UPS

The UPS delivery e-bike is nothing like your average electric commuter bike, as it's a cargo tricycle capable of carrying a large volume of packages in an enclosed hauling platform, and includes a windshield and covered area for the driver. The e-bike is said to have been designed and built by Portland's own Truck Trikes, which builds what it calls "true industrial trikes" capable of hauling payloads up to 600 pounds.

"Early in our 109 year history, UPS operated as a bike messenger company. 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." - Mark Wallace, UPS senior VP of global engineering and sustainability

Although this e-bike pilot program from UPS consists of just one electric delivery bike at the moment, it's quite possible that it could lead to a more comprehensive roll-out of cleaner local delivery options by the company. And if Big Brown can make it work, more companies may be prone to follow.

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