Postal e-bikes in a nutshell
- Postal bicycles have a long tradition. The German Reichspost used bicycles more than 100 years ago.
- Today, the trend is towards e-bikes or trikes. On the one hand, these are more sustainable, space-saving, and manoeuvrable than cars. On the other hand, they are more resilient than normal bicycles.
- For postal delivery, particularly robust e-bikes with high performance and carrying capacity are used
- To manage their fleet, postal operators can use the BikeTrax GPS tracker and the PowUnity fleet platform. This allows them to track their e-bikes in real time and benefit from the most effective anti-theft protection currently available for e-bikes.
Maybe your mail is already being delivered by electric bike – it would come as no surprise. In recent years, mail carriers in many countries have exchanged cars for bicycles with electric motors. The truth is, mail delivery by bike is nothing new. But pedelecs open up new possibilities compared to conventional bikes.
In this article, we will look at which pedelecs are already being used for mail delivery and how.
A journey through time – when the post came by bicycle for the first time
Postmen getting around by bicycles is not a new phenomenon. On the contrary: as early as in 1896, shortly after the “low-wheel” had begun to replace the “high-wheels” that had been common until then, the German Reichspost used a bicycle to transport “pneumatic tube mail” for the first time.
In 1910, there were officially over 7,000 postal bicycles in Germany. But there were also many more bicycles that postmen in rural areas bought on their own – as it was already the case back then that an employer would not provide the desired company vehicle.
Pictures show that bicycles were also in use by the Royal Mail in Great Britain, Australia, the USA and many other countries from early on.
After all, they were convincing on several levels. They were faster than pedestrians and horses, needed little space and did not eat any hay. Warnings of increased accident risks in cities and discrimination against older, less sporty postmen did not prevail. Until automobiles replaced bicycles at the post office, two-wheelers were the means of choice in many countries.
By the way: Even bicycles with an auxiliary motor were tested by the German Post Office in the 1920s but did not manage to catch on. 100 years later, things look a little different.
Advantages of e-mobility and e-bikes for mail delivery
Bicycles never completely disappeared from mail delivery. For many years, however, they were marginalised by cars. But today, the trend is reversing. As pedelecs or e-bikes, bicycles are making a comeback at the post office. Especially in big cities, it is evident that electric bikes are gradually replacing postal cars.
The most important reasons for this shift are:
- Sustainability: From the perspective of climate change and the shift in transport, utilizing e-mobility makes important contributions to environmental protection and benefits the reputation of postal companies.
- Speed: In cities, mail carriers can often get around faster with an e-bike than with a car. When using an electric bike, they are less affected by traffic jams, road works and the like. Finding a parking space is also much easier and most narrow streets do not present a big problem. Therefore, pedelecs make the work of postmen easier and help to ensure that the mail arrives faster.
- Load capacity: Where a conventional bike reaches its limits, a postal bike with a motor can take over. E-bike made for the post office can carry several boxes of letters without problems.
- Space-saving: E-bikes take up less space than cars and their maintenance costs less.
- Access to low emission zones: In big cities around the world, the number of areas where cars are not allowed to drive at all or only with restrictions are increasing. However, these restrictions do not apply to electric bikes.
Thanks to these advantages, more companies around the world are increasingly using electric bikes or even e-trikes – which have three wheels instead of two – for mail delivery. And this trend is likely to intensify. The same applies, of course, to the development of other vehicles with electric motors.
Like the mail delivery services, CEP services are also switching to pedelecs. Find out what courier, parcel and express services need in order to stand up to the competition in our article “CEP services and digitalisation – opportunities and challenges”.
Current examples of the use of e-bikes at the post office
The following examples show how electric bikes and their close relatives are gaining ground at the post offices in different countries:
Deutsche Post – Pioneer in e-mobility
DThe Deutsche Post DHL Group has been using e-bikes and e-trikes for some time now. Some of these, similarly to the electric vans, were produced by the company Streetscooter.
It was only at the beginning of 2020 that Deutsche Post introduced a new generation of vehicles, in which pedelecs with longer battery life, higher speed and more space for mailboxes stood out. In the medium term, Deutsche Post DHL is planning to say goodbye to combustion engines and to convert its entire fleet for the delivery of letters and parcels to e-mobility.
Purely electric pedelec fleet in Graz
Austrian Post is also pushing ahead with the conversion of its fleet. In Graz, an important milestone has already been reached. Since October 2021, all letters and parcels in the capital of Styria have been delivered “all-electric” by pedelec. A large part of the more than 200 delivery vehicles are electric bikes. Parcels can also be delivered to their destination using an electric pedestrian-controlled truck.
UPS – Parcel delivery with cargo electric bikes
Not just a letter, but also a parcel can be transported by electric bike. UPS has been proving this for several years with different types of cargo bikes, with two or three wheels and some with removable parcel boxes.
And what about efficiency? The interim conclusion is positive. Company representatives repeatedly point out that this way of delivering parcels is not only more environmentally friendly, but also more pleasant for the mail carriers who have to deliver parcels in narrow streets.
Royal Mail – with the power of the sun
In 2019 in some UK cities, for example Central London, the Royal Mail started their delivery service with e-trikes whose batteries were partly powered by solar panels. Although this concept has not yet become vastly popular, it shows an opportunity to make e-mobility even more sustainable.
What an e-bike for the post office must be able to do
Mail delivery services benefit from the fact that there are more and more manufacturers of electric bikes. However, ordinary pedelecs are not suitable for the professional deliveries of letters. Even an electric bike used by food delivery or supermarket delivery services does not make a good enough postal e-bike.
Instead, postal companies and postal carriers rely on e-bikes with specific features:
- High robustness: The postal pedelec has to withstand a lot. In daily use and under stress, small incidents can occur quickly, and the postal electric bike should survive them without damage.
- Long battery life: The newest postal electric bikes have particularly long battery life. This means that mail carriers do not have to use a spare battery in between and can complete all of the deliveries on one charge.
- High load capacity: Individually they are light, but in large quantities, letters or parcels can get heavy. Pedelecs for postal delivery must be, therefore, able to carry such weight.
- High safety standards: In order to make the work of postal carriers safe, postal e-bikes need to have a good stand and high-quality components, and the mail containers need to be securely fastened. They should also have rear lights and rear rack and must be easy to steer, even when fully loaded. When ergonomics, efficiency and safety (including regular bike maintenance) go hand in hand, it ensures that employees do not get off their bikes every evening with back pain.
- High power/speed: An e-bike for mail delivery also needs enough power to climb hills when fully loaded.
Depending on the area of use, other properties can be added to the bike, such as a rain cover for the driver or closed parcel boxes that can be changed in one piece.
The potential of tracking for e-bike fleets
E-bikes score points in many areas of application with efficiency, environmental friendliness and relatively low costs. But they also bring new challenges.
Whether it is the post office, delivery service or rental company, the management of a larger e-bike fleet places high demands on the organisation. Modern GPS tracking solutions, in combination with special software, help to cope with these demands.
With PowUnity’s BikeTrax GPS tracker and our fleet management platform, postal companies have options for integrating a state-of-the-art tracking solution into their own software. This way, they can track the location of every single e-bike in their fleet in real-time at any time. They also benefit from the most efficient anti-theft protection for electric bikes that is currently available on the market.
Conclusion: The e-bike is becoming a standard at the post office
You don’t need a magic crystal ball to make a prediction: a pedelec delivering the mail, as is already the case at Deutsche Post today, will be commonplace in the future. The environment, the mail carriers, the recipients as well as postal companies will benefit from the move away from petrol-powered cars to pedelecs.
Mail delivery by e-bikes has proven to be particularly useful in big cities, where it is not only more sustainable but often even more efficient and practical than other forms of delivery.
But for e-mobility on two wheels to deliver on its promise, postal operators need the right equipment. This starts with robust, high-performance e-bikes and includes special tracking solutions with the right software.