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May 15, 2024
Updated on:
May 17, 2024

Beyond the Pedals – The Logistics Being Overlooked

There is no doubt that the e-cargo bike is rapidly reshaping urban landscapes, with an increasing number of cities globally investing in infrastructure and policies to support this clean and efficient mode of logistics transportation. However, a crucial aspect is too often overlooked: their long-term implementation. 

While the concept of commercial fleets of e-cargo bikes promises a plethora of benefits, from reduced emissions to improved urban mobility, the reality may fall short if businesses lack the resources or solutions to manage the fleets effectively. 

This gap between the idea and its long-term implementation represents a significant risk to the transition - businesses could end up slowing their efforts or even reverting to traditional modes of transporting goods.This would not only undermine efforts towards net zero in the transport sector, but could also result in financial losses and resource waste for companies.

Take Paris, a clear leader in the transition towards soft mobility on the public and commercial front. The city is using the upcoming Olympics as a catalyst to nudge businesses to embrace greener options. Paris is offering enticing incentives like purchasing subsidies for e-cargo bikes and rolling out additional road restrictions. For example, they’ve created a Low Emissions Zone, will raise parking fees for SUVs, and are pursuing a comprehensive 2021-2026 Cycling Plan to make the city cycle-friendly. The city is essentially creating an environment where sustainable options become more attractive financially and operationally, while disincentivizing reliance on polluting vehicles. 

However, simply purchasing an e-cargo bike to replace a van is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Organizations need to play a crucial role in executing the transition. How do you find riders for these vehicles? How do you ensure you have a fleet that is functional and available every morning? How do you reduce the risk of a bike being stolen or faulty? How do you make sure this expensive new vehicle lasts as long as possible? What if you can’t purchase and prefer to rent / lease?  What if you want to change or upgrade your fleet for different use cases?

This is the space in which Zoomo lives, the “aftersale”. We’ve partnered with some of the leading manufacturers of cargo bikes, like VOK, to make the long term transition as easy as possible. VOK, an Estonian e-quad bike manufacturer, produces van-replacing e-cargo bikes distributed by Zoomo to clients like Veolia in France via purchase or rental options, complemented by regular maintenance, a Fleet Management Platform for asset tracking, and flexible Theft & Damage insurance through LAKA.

By outsourcing e-cargo bike maintenance to Zoomo, organizations can focus on delivering their core business objectives.This proactive approach eliminates the potential disruptions associated with internal repair challenges, such as sourcing qualified technicians to address unforeseen mechanical issues with e-cargo bikes utilized for critical deliveries.

As a relatively new and evolving vehicle, e-cargo bikes still have higher demands for maintenance than conventional motor vehicles do. Increased investment is essential to drive further innovation and cost reductions to make cargo bikes even more competitive. 

Indrek Petjärv, co-founding CEO of Vok Bikes, adds that financing options for businesses are key in moving from bulky and often diesel-fueled vans to nimble and sustainable e-cargo bikes. “At the end of the day, eco-friendliness is a nice bonus, while financial sustainability is an absolute must for any business. Business-grade heavy-duty cargo bikes like Vok are currently in the same price range as smaller vans; the latter comes with numerous financing possibilities, none of which involves directly paying thousands upfront.” 

The situation varies in different markets, but a common numerator is a shortage of creative solutions in motivating finance providers to develop financing products directly aimed at businesses acquiring cargo bikes. “Grants are definitely important, but according to our experience, having leasing and rental options available is crucial”, Petjärv adds.

Cycling infrastructure needs to accommodate large e-cargo bikes to realize the efficiency benefits of not getting stuck in traffic, while also being considerate of the conditions needed to increase the uptake of cycling by people of all ages and abilities. Additionally, more operational expenditure subsidies and programs, like ColisActiv, need to be considered, and should include maintenance support. There are a myriad of innovative strategies to reduce the barriers to using e-bikes as a form factor to transport goods. But at the end of the day, the most important one is a well maintained, functioning vehicle.

While the Olympics may provide a temporary catalyst for the transition, ensuring that cargo bikes for commercial purposes flourish and become one of Paris’ long-lasting Olympic legacies will require a much broader approach. It requires a sustained, comprehensive effort from cities, businesses, and organizations like Zoomo to permanently integrate these vehicles into the urban fabric. Comprehensive policies, robust infrastructure, and continuous educational and maintenance programs are essential. The true legacy therefore lies in how cities and businesses integrate and manage these cargo bikes after the event. 

Let's not miss this opportunity to turn an initiative like this into a permanent, sustainable solution.

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