RIPPL #44: Construction materials, delivered by e-trike

Utrecht-based housing maintenance company Wits, along with several partners, is experimenting with using cargo bikes to deliver consolidated consignments of building materials to sites across the city. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the ‘Slim Transport de Stad in’ project (Smart Transport in the City) is the unusually high capacity of the e-trike involved. It can carry up to 300kg, making it a viable method of carrying building materials.

For Jacob van den Essenburg, Director of Wits, an operational problem was the genesis of the idea:

“I order from five different wholesalers, all of whom are located at the Lage Weide business park in Utrecht, and they all deliver separately to our construction projects. In my view, this could be done differently.”

Unloading at one of Wits’ sites in Utrecht. Photo credit: CycleSpark

Together with mobility organisation Goedopweg (a consortium of local government organisations and businesses whose name roughly translates as ‘Well on the way’), Wits negotiated with the five wholesalers (including Stiho, Giebels, Sigma and Bevela) and got them to agree to deliver their goods to one site. According to Taco Jansonius from Goedopweg:

“The idea is that all wholesalers at Lage Weide will deliver their products to Stiho, one of the wholesalers, and from there the delivery will go to the Wits construction site in one go.”

The project, initially a pilot, will last three months although with good results the aim is to continue. Three diesel vans, the existing solution, were previously delivering three days per week. This was particularly inefficient delivery method in a historic city like Utrecht which has, at least in the centre, a layout of narrow, pedestrianised streets.

It is the high weight capacity of the trike, a modified Cycles Maximus frame and axis system, that makes delivery of building materials feasible. Up to 300kg (excluding the rider) can be carried – a weight that a cargo bike without heavy duty components would not cope with. Although the trike will mostly carry out deliveries of smaller items such as paint, metalwork and fixing materials, the body is designed to carry a Europallet meaning relatively large consignments can be consolidated and easily loaded at Stiho.

Christian Suurmeijer of CycleSpark worked on the technical side of the project, specifying the e-trike. Modifications included the addition of a unique electrical system that gives a ‘natural’ driving experience to the rider. Suurmeijer, who also runs sustainable mobility consultancy Greenolution, is keen to experiment with his CargoBikeXXL trailer which would extend volume capacity even further, allowing larger items to be carried. Meanwhile, local cycle logistics operator De Fietskoerier Utrecht provides the pedal power; on the first day of the pilot, the trike travelled an impressive emission-free 67km.

Christian Suurmeijer of CycleSpark (2nd left) with the Cycles Maximus e-trike he specified and some of the project partners. Photo credit: CycleSpark

As is the case with many collaborative cycle-logistics initiatives, each stakeholder has a slightly different motivation for joining the scheme. For Wits the primary motivation is cost-efficiency – and the wholesalers clearly all want to keep doing business with a good customer. The scheme is also good for business at cycle logistics operator De Fietskoerier Utrecht. Meanwhile Goedopweg are also interested in wider benefits to the city such as cleaner air and reduced congestion. And CycleSpark’s technical knowhow and passion for heavy duty cycle logistics made it all possible.

When these various motivations align alongside a good idea, an innovative project such as this has a great chance of succeeding. And with this success comes the possibility expansion of the scheme in Utrecht, or even replication in other cities. What is clear is that something interesting is being built in Utrecht – it will be fascinating to see the results.

Goedopweg: “Slim transport de stad Utrecht in” (Dutch)
Industrievereniging Lage Weide: “Slim transport de stad Utrecht in” (Dutch)
DUIC: “Honderden kilo’s aan materialen op de fiets naar de bouwplaats: in Utrecht kan het” (Dutch)
De Telegraaf: “Fietskoerier Bezorgt nu ook bouwmaterial” (Dutch)(Paywall)