The benefits of ecargo bikes for last mile deliveries


Image shows Doughies' ecargo bike in the Highlands, see case study below.

eCargo bikes offer the opportunity to decarbonise your last mile delivery fleet, reduce running costs and leave your staff happier and healthier at the end of the day. The Energy Saving Trust explains further

Last mile deliveries are the movement of goods from a supplier to the final delivery address and have experienced sustained growth since the introduction of ecommerce in 2000. Total road kilometres in the UK have subsequently increased by 27 billion kilometres, 22 per cent of which can be attributed to van travel. This trend has been accelerated in the past year, as lockdown restrictions have encouraged more online purchases.

Last mile deliveries are often made by small diesel vans, which contributes to congestion, poor air quality and climate change through carbon emissions. According to Department for Transport (DfT) research, the delivery and collection of goods accounted for 16 per cent of all van usage in the UK in 2019-202, up from an estimated eight per cent in 2016. According to one study of European Cities, in urban areas van usage created by commercial deliveries accounts for around 30 per cent of transport CO2 emissions, over 50 per cent of NOx emissions and 40 per cent of particulate matter emissions4.

Gordon Manson, programme manager at Energy Saving Trust, comments: “Decarbonising the last mile delivery sector has the potential to mitigate some of the harmful impacts of congestion, air quality and climate change caused by carbon emissions – particularly in urban areas.”

It has been shown that within urban areas, 51 per cent of all motorised trips associated with the transport of goods could be shifted from cars to bikes or ecargo bikes.

eCargo bikes come in variety of configurations, from two to four wheels, front and rear load boxes or trailers. The wide range of ecargo bike configurations means that there is an option for all types of last mile delivery activities, such as small parcel deliveries and moving shipments in consolidation hubs.

Why choose an ecargo bike?

Lower Emissions: Transport is currently the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions (27 per cent), of which road transport accounts for 90 per cent. eCargo bikes do not produce any operational greenhouse gas emissions, with only small amounts of greenhouse gases produced when generating the electricity needed to power the battery. Therefore, significant carbon savings can be made by operating ecargo bikes compared to diesel vans. Figure 2 below shows the annual carbon emissions between comparable last mile delivery vehicles.

Lower Costs: eCargo bikes have significantly lower upfront and running costs compared to diesel vans. These savings include fuel, maintenance costs and discounts and exemptions from congestion and Clean Air Zone charges. There are also tax incentives and government grants available.

Healthier and happier workforce: Many riders find ecargo bikes enjoyable to ride. The physical activity (supported by electric assistance) is beneficial for employees’ health, with Cyclescheme estimating that cycling to work three days a week can burn 1000 calories per week. Some companies also report that their ecargo bike riders take less sick leave than other drivers. Utilising ecargo bikes could also improve your brand reputation and environmental credentials.

How can businesses use ecargo bikes?

There are many applications for ecargo bikes beyond parcel and post logistics. Other sectors include food delivery, cleaning and maintenance, and local store-to-customer deliveries in retail.

Gordon Manson said: “Businesses firstly need to consider what needs transporting, where and when, before selecting the best ecargo bike option for the job.” If ecargo bikes are used, they should be embedded in an efficient, well-thought-out delivery operation strategy to ensure success.

eCargo bikes typically suit the transportation of small and light goods, as ecargo bikes do not have as large a capacity as a van.

They work well in a high-density network with many stops within a short distance, as this is the most profitable method, and while vehicles have a limited range, they can be parked easily.

eCargo bikes also suit time-critical deliveries, as small vehicles are less affected by congestion, making them more reliable.

They are also good for accessing congested or access restricted areas as ecargo bikes are cheaper to use in Clean Air Zones and easier to move around in pedestrianised zones.

The financial incentive to complete deliveries as efficiently as possible, combined with the relatively limited capacity of ecargo bikes means that a strategically placed consolidation or distribution ‘hub’ is highly desirable for many last mile operators using ecargo bikes.

Energy Saving Trust support

In England, £400,000 has been made available by the Department for Transport in 2021/22 for the purchase of ecargo bikes, to support businesses switching to a sustainable transport solution.

The Funding, known as the eCargo Bike Grant Fund, covers up to 40 per cent of the total cost of an ecargo bike, up to a maximum of £2,500 for two-wheel models and £4,500 for three-wheel models.

Applications will be capped at five bikes per organisation. Larger applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Applications may include more than one organisation. In these joint ‘high-street’ applications, a lead applicant will be responsible for submitting the application.

For more information please see the Eligibility Criteria and Code of Practice. Apply here.

Scotland - eBike Business Loan

Interest-free loans of up to £30,000 are available from Energy Saving Trust, funded by Transport Scotland (an agency of the Scottish Government). The eBike Business Loan aims to support organisations that want to reduce the carbon impact of their transport and travel arrangements with new and more efficient alternatives and are available to help with the cost of purchase.

The loan covers new pedal-assisted electric bikes, up to £3,000 per bike; new cargo bikes, up to £6,000 per bike; and new adapted cycles.

If your organisation is replacing a car or van with a cargo or ecargo bike, there is no maximum limit per bike, within the maximum loan amount of £30,000.

Interested? Complete the online business enquiry form and one of EST's sustainable transport coordinators will be in touch.

Case Studies
Interested in seeing how other businesses have utilised ecargo bikes in their operations? Take a look at the case studies below:

Box Bike Delivery.