Low Impact City Logistics is a collaborative project that has developed an innovative ‘net-neutral load’ electric powered trailer. To the rider, the e-trailer feels ‘weightless’; meaning high payloads can be carried with relative ease. The e-trailer can carry a payload of 200kg and also has a walking mode so that it can, if required, be de-coupled from the bike and walked, still using e-assist, closer to the loading/unloading point.
How the e-trailer achieves this ‘weightlessness’ is down to its ability to regulate speed so that, when on the move, it is always going at the same speed as the bike. It does this by using its motor to either add or remove energy from the wheels, based on feedback from a coupling which constantly senses the distance between the bike and e-trailer.
The e-trailer is also designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. When it slows down, rather than simply dissipating energy as heat from friction, the energy is fed back into the battery. This is achieved by reversing the motor. Robin Haycock, Director at Fernhay, the company which developed the e-trailer, puts it like this: “Basically you have a battery full of energy, this energy is used to accelerate a mass (the e-trailer and parcels). If I want to decelerate that mass, then I want to save that energy back to the battery. In conventional freight bikes or pedelecs there is no function or capability to do this and the energy is converted into heat and lost via the disc brakes.”
Low Impact City Logistics as a project however, is not just about development of innovative bike-trailer technology. The aim is to design a complete system which will provide more efficient ways to provide door to door delivery services to cities, with a particular focus on the last mile. The project is also looking at methods by which packages can be loaded at depots (to get rid, for example, of double handling) all directed by innovative distribution software. A trial period of the systems involved ran in Camden, London, in November and December 2017, further details from which will be available later on this year.
The project, part-funded by government agency Innovate UK, has several partners besides Fernhay, all of whom fulfil different roles. Technology company Skotkonung wrote optimisation algorithms which allow routing efficiency to be continuously improved using a GPS tracker in the e-trailer. The University of Huddersfield provided some of the expertise with which the e-trailer was developed. Cambridge-based cycle logistics operator Outspoken! Delivery conducted initial testing on the e-trailer. UPS, as the lead logistics partner on the project, operated the trailer in London and it was their packages that were being delivered in London during the trial.
Project: Low Impact City Logistics
Organisations: Fernhay, Outspoken! Delivery, Skotkonung, UPS and Huddersfield University.
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