Deutsche Post DHL: Flexible and green: the DHL Express E-cargo bike

Deutsche Post DHL : Flexible and green: the DHL Express E-cargo bike

The DHL bicycle courier service comes to Bonn and Cologne as climate protection and online trade put pressure on the company.

The boss himself swung onto a bike for the occasion. Dressed in comfortable black and yellow cycling clothes and bicycle helmet, Wolfgang Albeck, managing director of DHL Express Germany, yesterday presented one of the new E-cargo bikes in front of the Post Tower. The company will also use them in future in Bonn and Cologne, mainly to deliver letters and small parcels to business clients.

In building up its bicycle courier service, DHL Express is reacting to a twin challenge: the growing competition from courier companies and smaller parcel delivery companies who make same day deliveries in built-up areas and to the demands of climate change. The Deutsche Post DHL Group has set itself the goal of reducing C02 emissions from its vehicle fleet by 30 per cent worldwide by 2020, compared with 2007.

The pilot phase for the project began in 2014 and with its extension to Bonn and Cologne, DHL Express now has a total of 16 courier bikes delivering around 700 shipments daily. “It makes ecological and financial sense,” says Albeck. “We’ll see big changes in vehicle traffic in cities in the next few years.” It is only a matter of time until old diesel vehicles will be banned from inner city streets.

The DHL business is therefore gradually converting the around 92,000 cars, lorries and transporters it uses throughout the globe to run on alternative fuels. DHL said around 13,500 vehicles had been modernised. Customers can also book the “GoGreen” service. It costs two per cent of the shipment cost and guarantees a climate neutral delivery.

Climate change is only one side of the new bicycle service. The other is that customers increasingly expect same-day deliveries. DHL Express said they wanted to greatly expand the “Same Day Service.” Pressure to do so is coming from competitors who are smaller and more flexible, such as Liefery. A small but rapidly growing start-up, Liefery operates in around 70 German cities and promises clients to bring the goods ordered to their door within 90 minutes or at a pre-arranged time. Liefery is now working with Amazon, a major DHL client.

DHL Express wants to use the new cargo bikes in the first instance to deliver to business customers in the offices around the Post tower in Bonn and in Cologne city centre. To do this, a special model of bike has been produced by a Danish manufacturer. It is a pedelec (a pedal electric bicycle) built from light-weight aluminium that uses an electric motor to reach speeds of 25 kilometres per hour. They are therefore still allowed on normal cycle paths.

The two aluminium boxes at the front and back each have a capacity of 170 litres. Importantly, they have a security lock that clicks shut without the delivery person having to lock it. This is to protect sensitive documents from theft while the delivery person is delivering a shipment to a customer.

The cargo bikes are supported by an electric motor to help the employees who will ride them. “In cities with lots of hills, like Stuttgart, we can’t expect employees to be continually riding up and down,” said press officer Dieter Pietruck.

Managing director Albeck did not have to cycle up any hills: “Luckily, here on the Rhine, Bonn is flat,” he said and rode round again for the photographers.

(Original text: Ulla Thiede; Translated by Kate Carey)