These Emissions-Free Cargo Vehicles From Germany Could be the Future of Urban Delivery

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A Berlin startup has developed a new electric delivery vehicle that can carry a carload of goods in a bicycle-sized package.

ONO is now selling the pioneer edition of its new “pedal-assisted transporter,” which they refer to as the PAT for short. Though perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a “cargo ebike delivery system,” as that is certainly what it’s for.

While a van can carry four times as many boxes as an ONO PAT, the delivery container that goes on the PAT can be loaded by hand at an ONO “delivery hub” and be waiting on caster wheels to easily roll onto the back of the bike when it’s time, a pairing that company officials say could reinvent urban logistics entirely.

Their argument is that in Europe’s typically narrow city streets, the advantages of an electric-powered bike with a cargo hold are many.

It can park on sidewalks, removing the need to look for parking in dense urban areas. It can use bike lanes to ease traffic congestion and prevent the need for stopping in the street, and it doesn’t require a driver’s license, insurance, or registration—all problems faced by regular delivery van drivers.

Quick trips to and from ONO Hubs would allow operators and coordinators to make up for the small size of the ONO PAT.

Other features include an RFID chip-activated starter to prevent theft; there’s also an enclosed cabin for the driver to sit in, helping make the job that bit more comfortable for those making deliveries—especially during frigid winters.

Of course, the biggest advantage is that the vehicle is emission-free, with a fast-charging time and limited battery expenditure.

After undergoing stress tests to see how many PATs and Hubs would be needed to service a metropolitan area, ONO is establishing a presence in four German cities this fall, with five Hubs operating out of Berlin alone. The company’s 2025 goals are to service 60 cities, and hopefully more.

Similar, if slightly less sophisticated, cargo ebikes are being tested and can be seen on the streets of Manhattan—where UPS, DHL, and Amazon are all adding their own versions of the PAT to their respective delivery fleets, signifying that diminutive vehicles could be the way forward for urban logistics.