The sustainable last mile model is experiencing a boom but it needs more support from local governments to ensure that it is sustainable and can compete with more traditional delivery models. We spoke to Charles Jolley, CEO of URB-E about what needs to be done. And if you want to learn more about last mile operation join us this October for a 4 day online event on last mile. Register here for free!
What are the challenges for last mile deliveries and how do you think they can be solved?
The solution to increased traffic congestion in urban areas is not to build new roadways specifically for delivery traffic.
Small scale e-cargo adoption is possible in any city, but if we want to move to a different class of vehicle for deliveries, there needs to be more regulation and support by local governments for using bike lanes for delivery. For example, we need clear rules on liability in accidents, which makes it more difficult to obtain insurance for riders. As it stands now, third party coverage for the rider is very expensive at $5,000 per year.
Big companies care about their operating risk and don’t want to be operating in a grey zone.
What is Urb-E’s model and why do you believe it is better than the one of other companies?
We are more than the tech of a new kind of EV – it’s our platform, the network hubs, that enables us to be easily adoptable and scalable.
URB-Es run on swappable batteries, so there’s no need to create a new infrastructure like Tesla did for fixed charging stations. The batteries can be charged anywhere and then dropped off where needed. This also reduces the risk of battery fires since they are not all charging in one place.
Autonomous delivery vehicles are also not well received by customers. People expect a package to be delivered at their doorstep. They don’t want to come down to the street to retrieve it from a robot.
Riders also enjoy delivering with URB-Es. URB-Es are electric motorbikes with pedals that pull hard, but go slow at 12 or 18mph for safety. Riders can still get exercise, but because of the torque, they are not getting as exhausted as bicycle riders after 2 hours. URB-E riders will typically work 6 to 8 hours a day.
What is the role of city authorities and customers for the efficiency of last mile operations?
This goes back to regulation and investment in bike lanes. New York City is implementing congestion pricing – a surcharge at the tolls is added for services during peak in-demand hours. This plan is designed to reduce traffic in dense metro areas, which incentivizes companies to use e-courier services that can travel in bike lanes.