When talking about innovation in cycle logistics, the term ‘containerisation’ could refer to one of two things; use of shipping containers as flexible loading space, or the use of transferable containers to move items around using pedal power.
Speaking of the latter, Velove and Radkutsche, two of the most prominent manufacturers of pedal powered cycles, recently took a first small step towards container standardisation. Specifically, it is now possible to use Velove’s ‘City Container’ on a Radkutsche Musketeer. This is a significant development; it marks the first time two manufacturers have cooperated on a cycle logistics container standard.
Let’s rewind though, because it’s worth revisiting the reasons containerisation is thought by many to be of benefit. In fact, the benefits are the same as those found in the shipping industry for the standard, now ubiquitous shipping container.
Firstly, it makes reloading of goods safe and quick. Logistics operators can skip the step of reloading at depots and between modes, keeping all of the costs associated with these activities down to a minimum. The implications of this? Many logistics operators not currently operating pedal-powered last miles (perhaps under the impression that it would be complicated, inefficient, unsafe or expensive) could be encouraged to make the switch.
Secondly, the concept is both multi-modal and highly scalable. Most importantly it works on a local scale; a single container can be easily be transported by pedal-power. Equally though, multiple containers can easily be carried longer distance on a single medium van, or larger vehicles such as lorries, boats or trains. In between the two, articulated pedal powered trailers could carry two or three containers if the rider had electric assistance.
The Velove-Radkutsche project, which was funded by Swedish State innovation agency Vinnova, saw the adaptation of a Radkutsche Musketeer to fit Velove’s ‘City Container’ standard, which was then tested by cycle logistics operator MOVEBYBiKE Stockholm. Johan Erlandsson and Stefan Rickmeyer, CEOs of Velove and Radkutsche respectively, discussed the project at the 2016 and 2017 editions of the International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen.
Several manufacturers, including Radkutsche themselves, are developing their own container systems. Does this mean we are heading towards a VHS vs. Betamax momentin cycle logistics containerisation; in which different standards compete until one is left? Not yet, according to Johan Erlandsson, founder and CEO of Velove, manufacturers of the Armadillo: “Velove’s stance is that it’s not yet crucial to get to a point where there is one standard. What is most crucial at the moment is meeting the potential to replace vehicles. If different manufacturers have different standards that’s not a showstopper. We can come pretty far without a standard.” Erlandsson is referring to the massive potential of cycle logistics to replace traditional motorised deliveries in urban environments; a CycleLogistics study found that up to 50% of light goods could be delivered by bike. Recent moves by several European cities to ban traffic from central areas, notably Oslo, only make this closer to reality. Other cities are certain to follow as they make changes intended to make public space more liveable, and improve air quality.
Erlandsson continues: “In the end there will be one standard, but for now I’m happy that different ideas are being tested. Look at shipping containers; it took 30-40yrs until a standard was agreed upon.”
The ‘City Container’, originally designed to fit onto the Armadillo, is a very specific size; a europallet fits inside. However, the reason for this is not as obvious as it might first seem; this size is also perfect for carrying the quarter-pallet sized trays common in the food and catering industries.
Meanwhile, Velove are also in dialogue with other light vehicle manufacturers, for them to also begin using City Container. This process brings challenges, as manufacturers generally need to adapt their designs to the container; by definition, a standard does not conform to you, you conform to it.
It’s important to note, though, that the City Container is still in development. Erlandsson expects improvements to be made not only to the anchoring system, but also the box. Several adapted designs could emerge, each catering for different functions, perhaps using different materials or available at different quality levels. The ink on the ‘standard’ is still far from being dry.
Innovations: container standardisation
Organisation: Velove and Radkutsche
Countries: Sweden and Germany
Bike Manufacturers: Velove and Radkutsche
Website: http://velove.se and http://www.radkutsche.de
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Velovebikes/ and https://www.facebook.com/radkutsche/
Contact: Johan Erlandsson, Velove co-founder and CEO. firstname.lastname@example.org
Velove: “The City Container can now be used with the Radkutsche Musketier cargo trike”
Velove: “Containerisation makes city logistics smart”