A new report by the Green Alliance published under the banner Sharing the load: the potential of e-cargo bikes has found that it is lack of suitable infrastructure deterring drivers of vans from making a consideration for cargo bikes in their next fleet vehicle choice.
To bring about a change in how businesses move goods the report writes that “All road infrastructure changes should consider e-cargo bikes, as some existing cycling provision is still inaccessible to them. Concerns around accessibility and safety were highlighted by our focus groups. Improvements needed include cycle lane widening and junction upgrades. Suitable parking will also reduce these concerns, so councils should delineate specific cargo bike parking spaces.”
While some tradespeople are finding the benefits of attending jobs by cargo bike to be significant, focus groups have shown many fleet managers to have low awareness of how capable electric cargo bikes have become and the benefits, ranging cost savings through emissions savings.
On the subject of carbon reduction, it has been calculated within the report that replacing as little as 7.5% of Britain’s diesel van fleet with electric cargo bike solutions could bring about annual carbon savings surpassing that achieved by cancelling domestic aviation.
Simon Backler, founder of Mid-Sussex Electrical and now an e-cargo bike user, said: “Our customers love the fact that we turn up on a cargo bike and are always surprised how much we can fit on it. The novelty factor gains our business a lot of free publicity. The cargo bike saves our Electrical Contracting business £100 a day when we use it in central London as we avoid the costs of fuel, congestion charging, parking charges and emission zones.”
The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vans presents a pressing issue for fleet managers who must now begin to think about the future. Van traffic has doubled on UK roads in the past two decades, in large part down to online shopping trends. That has lead to an increase in emissions of 60% since 1990 and as it stands just 1% of the 4.6 million vans on UK roads is electric.
Demo schemes and chances to try before businesses were found to be key to unlocking potential sales, with most “needing to be convinced” before investing, although UK manufacturer EAV says that with adoption from giants like Amazon this is become less the case. Focus group participants were broadly supportive of a rental scheme administered via local authorities. Loans should run from weeks to months to enable businesses to better understand the accumulative benefits.
Financial support is likewise sought, with businesses hopeful of Department for Transport grants to bring down the upfront cost burden. With driving costs rising and not to mention a lesser mentioned incoming rise in fuel duty that was quietly left out of the Autumn budget speech, fleet operators will save significantly on parking, charges, payments for operating in low emissions zones, insurance costs and plenty more. Some trialling electric cargo bikes have found the savings in parking fines alone to have been quickly enough to cover their investment costs.
The report offers “Evidence from e-cargo bike users we spoke to showed that, while not all of them had used grants to purchase their bikes, many had required financial support and would otherwise not have made the choice to switch.”
Johann Beckford, policy adviser at Green Alliance, said of the study: “E-cargo bikes are not only an exciting solution to reducing carbon emissions, they can also help tackle air pollution, while improving productivity and cutting journey times in urban areas. For many businesses swapping a diesel van for an e-van makes the most sense, but there is also significant potential for more journeys to be made using e-cargo bikes. We need to see the government do more to raise awareness and make it easier for businesses to make the switch.”