An electrically powered micro-carrier could soon revolutionize the way parcel services operate in inner cities
A delivery van double-parking and blocking the road . This could be a scene of the past according to Werner Schönewolf, who is developing new delivery methods for parcel services. The engineer works at the Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology in Berlin and has examined in detail how an electric vehicle could fit perfectly into the logistics of a parcel service. His studies are part of the European research project FIDEUS and its follow-up project CITY-LOG, which are both funded by the European Commission.
“The last mile is the most expensive in the logistic world”, says Schönewolf as he links up two trolleys to an electric vehicle the size of an armchair. “We want to overcome this last mile with a micro-carrier, so that the large and expensive lorries do not need to drive from door to door anymore”. The aim of the engineers is to move the distribution from the diesel powered vans and lorries to a much smaller and greener vehicle. But the advantages are not limited to the environment.
Most inner cities only have a limited access time for larger vehicles. Normally, lorries and vans are only allowed to deliver or pick-up their goods in these areas during the morning hours. This is a key problem not only for the delivery services, but also for the clients. But if the delivery was not done with the van but with a small electric vehicle, things would be very different. Because they are small, silent and don’t produce any exhaust gases, the small electric micro-carriers are allowed to enter many pedestrian areas at any time of the day.
The first field test became an important milestone in the research project. The system proved to be a success and the engineers are now focusing their work on redesigning the vehicle. For example, one crucial factor the researchers need to improve is the efficient integration of the electrical vehicle in the city. At the moment the loading of the trolleys is still complex, but Werner Schönewolf and his team are already working on an ingenious idea. They are developing an intelligent hand-truck that can also be used as a trolley for the micro-carrier…
As everyone talks about the future of electric cars, it will be these specific applications where we will see them used first. These micro carriers don’t need a large range. Additionally, they are green and they are allowed to enter pedestrian areas at any time of the day. In other words: it’s a system that makes everybody happy – the parcel service company, the environment, and last but not least, the client.
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