The Dutch postal service PostNL will be using electric cargo bikes in large cities for the emptying of letterboxes. While en-route, they will be used to pick up and deliver business mail. This means that, by this summer, there will be hundreds of delivery vans less coming into Amsterdam.
The e-cargo bikes are not just cleaner, they also take up less space in the already crowded city centre. As he stops in front a publishing company on the Herengracht, Petru Agachi points out the bollards that separate the road from the pavement.
“A car will not fit between them”, he says. “But my stint does.”
In the city centre, PostNL has already replaced the first vans by electric modes of transport. PostNL is doing this to test different types and sizes, including the stint, an electric cargo bike which is also used by childcare organisations in Amsterdam to pick up children from school.
Manoeuvrable and narrow, but with enough cargo space for all the mail that used to be transported by van.
In the meantime, Agachi whizzes from one side to the other along the canal. “You would never be able to do this so fast in a car”, says Nanette Wielenga, responsible for the smooth transfer to ‘bike logistics’ at PostNL.
During the test period in Amsterdam, the e-cargo bikes proved to be a success. Their batteries have improved significantly over the last few years, so they now have the range they need to replace the vans. Another important factor, Wielenga acknowledges, is that the amount of mail has decreased substantially.
Conveniently distributed around Amsterdam, PostNL has established eight transfer points where just a few regular vans come in to deliver and pick up the mail.
The delivery personnel has a more enjoyable job and a much more personal contact with the city.
While supermarkets are still looking for transfer bases from which to operate their delivery cargo bikes, PostNL could simply use their existing depots from where postmen start their daily round.
Starting this August, the sixty e-cargo bikes will be going around Amsterdam and Diemen. Only in the more rural northern part of Amsterdam, distances are too big, and vans will still be used here for business mail and the emptying of letterboxes.
PostNL is not just saving time in the busy city centre, sustainability is also a key factor. With PostNL using electric transport in Amsterdam on a hundred delivery routes, the result is a reduction of sixty thousand kilos of CO2 emission per year – the energy consumption of three households. After Amsterdam, the project will be implemented in the other large cities.
By 2025, PostNL wants to have an emission-free delivery service in 25 inner cities.
The fact that Agachi and his colleagues are no longer stressing behind the wheel to get all the mail picked up at shops and companies before closing time is a nice bonus, says Wielenga.
“They like their job better, have more contact with the city.” Especially when on his stint, he draws a lot of attention, explains Agachi. Many tourists are taking photos of him and his stint.
In the evening, the e-cargo bikes are also used to deliver packages, but during the rest of the day, regular vans are still needed to do this.
In Amsterdam, PostNL delivers 22,000 packages a day, and they are often of a size that is not easily transported by e-cargo bike. Wielenga: “It will be a while before we deliver them all by bike”.