It's really a glorified golf cart, and maybe that's all we need.
Every year there are more and more delivery trucks out there delivering all those online orders, parking in the FedEx and UPS lanes and pumping out exhaust. Andrew Zaleski described the scene in Citylab a few years ago:
And it is going to get worse, as Amazon and other companies promise shorter and shorter delivery times, meaning more trucks travelling more direct warehouse-to-your-house deliveries.
As more goods are ordered, more delivery trucks are dispatched on narrow city streets. Often, the box trucks will double-park in a two-lane street if there’s no loading zone to pull into, snarling traffic behind them. “We’re taking that demand that used to be concentrated and we’re spreading it throughout the city throughout all times of day. The streets were not designed for that kind of activity.”
That's why this new Club Car 411 from AEV Technologies is so interesting. It's not fancy. It's more like a golf cart with a box on the back. In fact, that's exactly what it is, made by Club Car, "one of the most respected names in the golf industry for more than half a century."
In its van box form, it can carry 1,100 pounds of stuff up to fifty miles. That's not as much or as far as a typical UPS truck might carry, but with all the same-day delivery stuff happening, the trucks are probably going shorter distances more often.
They are not particularly sophisticated vehicles either, limited to 25 MPH to be classed as a Low Speed Vehicle, but still "licensable and road-worthy thanks to its automotive-style suspension and drive systems." There's no fancy lithium here, just 6 old fashioned lead-acid batteries. Not as small as the EAV I showed recently, but it's only 55 inches wide, barely filling the UPS lane and probably less deadly to pass on a bike – and who knows, they might even be able to find a legal parking spot more easily.
In Citylab, Christopher Leinberger complains: “Urban freight trips are basically fitting a square peg into a round hole. It’s more trucks and more routes jammed onto city streets, which is trying to address a challenge with obsolete thinking.”
It's funny, because when I got the press release, I thought, "It's a glorified golf cart. Why would this be interesting?" But the more I thought about it, the fact that it is compact and emission free, the more interesting it got. Delivery trucks are becoming more like taxis for stuff, taking just a few things per trip. They are everywhere, and there are not enough police in the world to ticket them all. Perhaps an answer is to have smaller vehicles that are easier to navigate around or park. Perhaps there could be special teensy parking spots dedicated to them and cargo bike delivery vehicles.
Enough of this obsolete thinking.