FedEx Makes More Efficient Deliveries with Zero Emissions Electric Bikes

An electric, non-carbon emitting tricycle for adults is way more exciting than it sounds, especially when an international company like FedEx Corp. uses the bikes to deliver packages across the city of Paris.

FedEx now has four tricycles making mail deliveries in Paris – 12 by the end of the summer – that run on a 250-watt electric motor supplemented with pedal power.  The company partnered with Urban Cab,  a transportation service with 22 pedal-powered “rickshaws” around the city.

The tricycles require manual pedaling to start the motor. Although slightly bulky, there’s a tall, removable storage container that sits between the back two wheels.  The vehicles can travel at a speed of around 20 kilometers per hour and are welcome traffic in Paris’ pedestrian-only areas and many bike lanes. (Watch the video of the trike in action here.)

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe has made a special effort during his tenure of the past 10 years to widen sidewalks and replace car lanes with bike and bus corridors.  FedEx anticipates that this intiative is keeping the company ahead of  plans to develop more car-less areas of the city. Paris plans to develop over 400 miles of bike lanes by 2014 and already has a number of streets devoted to pedestrian-only traffic.

FedEx’s sustainable fleet  is relatively new,  but drivers are already saying that they are able to make faster, more efficient deliveries. They avoid the traffic that clogs the streets of central Paris while moving at a decent speed.  During a trial period, the bikes delivered on average 15 packages per hour.  FedEx’s managing director of operations for France, Dirk Van Impe, says the tricycles have improved efficiency, are financially viable, and good for the company’s visibility.

FedEx has 170 hybrid vehicles around the globe and solar-powered buildings in the U.S. and Germany. They also are considering rolling out the bikes in other Western European cities.  Non-profits and businesses, albeit it on a much smaller scale, are employing bikes for movement of people and goods as well.  Examples include Portland’s Soupcycle, which supplies Oregonians with homemade soups; MetroPedal Power in Boston, which can carry up to 500 pounds on its bike trailers; and pedal-powered bike ambulances in Namibia. These are just a few of the many low-cost, innovative examples of human-powered delivery methods.

However, FedEx’s new electric bikes are highly sophisticated, and it is FedEx’s global presence that may scale up the use of biking for urban deliveries. Read about how global businesses are uniquely positioned to improve some of the world’s worst traffic in this blog post, written by Mitch Jackson, director of Environmental Affairs & Sustainability for FedEx (he also writes for the FedEx Citizenship Blog.)

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