UPS/FedEx/DHL using E-Trikes for delivery in Europe

November 28, 2013

About a year ago, the UPS depot in Dortmund Germany began a test program that used electric trikes to deliver packages around the older sections of town. The streets there are narrow, and the parking spaces are small. Also, Germany is trying about alternatives whenever they find a situation where a green solution might be appropriate.

I haven’t found any information yet on the motor, the voltage, or battery chemistry, but…the top speed is 15-MPH (25 k/h) and the pack has a range of 21-miles (35 km). The average home in Germany uses 220V, and that is what the “Cargo Cruiser” is charged up with.

In 2011, UPS promoted Scott Wicker to be their their first head of a completely new department: the Chief Sustainability Officer. Wicker started out at UPS like may of their top employees, loading and unloading packages from their trucks as a temp during the peak package shipping seasons, way back in 1977. Now, he is the top advisor and administrator of UPS’s alternative technologies.


Scott Wicker

Scott Wicker, Chief Sustainability Officer for UPS.


Under his watch, UPS has begun exploring a wide variety of options in order to gain real-world in-house expertise to help them apply alternatives to any place where the newest evolving options are most appropriate. UPS uses more than 90,000 vehicles, and their fleet of roughly 2,500 alternative-fueled vehicles is the largest in the industry, and one of the most diverse. Alternative-fuelled UPS vehicles have racked up over 200 million miles in service.

Many are powered by natural gas as an alternative to diesel. For example, more than 900 local delivery vans in the U.S. are powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), and almost that many vehicles in Canada are powered by propane. For long distances, they also have about 59 highway tractor-trailers that are powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

As one of the country’s largest buyers of delivery vehicles, UPS has played a major role collaborating with truck and engine makers to come up with models that meet new government fuel-efficiency standards. At current prices, the new standard could save the company $12,000 per year, per truck, so…this isn’t just green altruism, it just plain good business.


UPS is logging many miles with electric, hubrid, and natural gas powered vehicles.

UPS is logging millions of miles using electric, hybrid, and natural gas powered vehicles.


Already, UPS’s  highly visible development of alternative fuel delivery vehicles (such as LNG, CNG, hybrids, and EVs),  is crucial to nurturing the evolution of these lower-carbon technologies. UPS has taken a position of working towards being fuel neutral, and that’s the right place to be on the issue, because there’s no perfect alternative for every job. Super-efficient diesels are the best solution for some of UPS’s long-haul routes, but hybrids or EVs may prove to be better on some smaller delivery loops.

One of the things Wicker is most excited about is “light-weighting.” Recently, they rolled out a test truck that looks similar to their regular delivery van, but that’s built with advanced materials that shave off 900 pounds. There are body panels made of lightweight plastic composites instead of metal sheets. Because the vehicle is so much lighter, they were able to use a smaller engine, as well. These newer trucks deliver approximately 40 percent gains in fuel efficiency.

Rounding out the alternative fleet are 381 hybrid electric models (similar to Toyota’s Prius) which use a combination of combustion, electric motors, and battery storage to boost mileage. Because they recapture so much of their energy through regenerative braking, these models are especially well-suited to urban routes, where total miles travelled is short, with many stops and starts, and pollution control is important. They’re also running a small number of ethanol-powered vehicles along with pure EVs, which run solely on power stored in their batteries.


Europe has increasingly stringent emissions standards for heavy vehicles that work in congested cities

Europe has increasingly stringent emissions standards for heavy vehicles that work in congested cities. EV’s and hybrids don’t work well on the open highway, but “deep pocket” companies like UPS are driving innovation in short-range work vehicles that may eventually trickle down to light passenger cars.


No sooner had I published this article above, and a friend read it and sent me a link to an article about FedEx, who is also experimenting with e-trikes in Paris, France. they could not have missed UPS’s efforts at this, and the narrow streets of the older sections of Paris are another place where these are perfect. Near silent operation on a beautiful spring morning in Paris, and no pollution!

This brings up the question…how long before electric bicycle kits (like the Bafang BBS02) are delivered by an electric trike?


Please email me any links to info on the FedEx/UPS systems they use.

Please email me any links to info on the FedEx/UPS systems they use.


After just a few days, another link has been sent to me! DHL is also trying out E-Trikes in certain specific routes.

Not every employee of DHL would want to do this, but the ones who do...will stay very healthy and strong!

Not every employee of DHL would want to do this, but the ones who do…will stay very healthy and strong!


Another late edit: It seems appropriate to add this pic of the German Postal service “Deutsche Post” E-bike. I salute the German government for these efforts. The bike is made by Sachsen Zweirad  (Saxony Bicycle), and it uses a geared front hub motor that provides 14-MPH (23 k/h), and the batteries are specifically made to be easily and quickly hot-swappable. Germany had over 6,000 E-bikes by 2002 delivering mail.

A Deutsche Post E-bike.

A Deutsche Post E-bike.


Update, June 2014

Thanks to the German forum member “Rocket” for this link. UPS just released a public relation pic showing one of their employees using a Riese & Muller “Bakfiets” Long John-style cargobike that is using the higher-powered version of the Bosch mid drive.


A UPS employee using a Bakfiets cargobike from Riese & Muller.

A UPS employee using a Bakfiets cargobike from Riese & Muller.


Written by Ron/Spinningmagnets, November 2013

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas


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