Europe is known for its historic cities that merge the old with the new. Medieval churches can stand next to a modern apartment building, keeping citizens in touch with their past while planning for the future. Now more and more cities are enacting progressive green transportation rules and regulations to make sure the future is less impacted by air pollution.
FedEx launched a pilot last year across six major cities in Europe to test innovative ways to get packages where they need to go, on time, while respecting rules hoping to improve these cities’ air quality. Some of the initiatives this cross-functional team is implementing combine new technology like electrification with tried and true techniques of the past, from electric bikes to the human foot.
“There is so much to consider when you attempt a project like this,” explains Delphine Slootmaker, FedEx managing director for Central Planning and Engineering. Her team analyzed 300 cities to determine the final candidates for the test which brought in dozens of FedEx team members from across Europe. “There are parking space questions, street access restrictions, new green zones, curfews for delivery… each major city has its own unique issues and needs unique solutions.”
Many cities will likely take advantage of e-bikes eventually, so the pilot program wanted to test a number of different types and brands in different markets. In Amsterdam, the e-bikes feature a smaller cargo compartment located between the bike’s front wheel and the handlebars and rider.
“The program has uncovered some things you might not initially think about,” FedEx Delphine Slootmaker explains. “The type of courier who drives a van is likely not the same type of personality of one who wants to ride an e-bike.” Luckily, these new bike couriers are pretty enthusiastic about their green routes.
“I think e-bikes are the best way to deliver small packages in a busy city,” says Amsterdam courier Jacky Zheng. “We move easily at a good speed to get the package to the customer faster, and we can park our bikes on the walkway, so we don’t have to hold up traffic.” Couriers aren’t the only ones getting positive vibes from clean delivery. “Customers are really happy when they see us pull up on the e-bikes. They’re glad to know we’re thinking about the environment,” Zheng adds.
Initial results have been very positive in terms of delivery efficiency and effectiveness, but FedEx is finding some areas that could require alterations based on anecdotal feedback from the couriers. For example, e-bike couriers need better insulated waterproof gloves to stay warm during foul weather. Similarly, foot and e-bike couriers may need to wear different types of shoes for both summer and winter. Everything down to the bell on the bikes is being considered.
The rest of the cities ramping up for the pilot include Frankfurt, Milan, Paris, and Madrid. They’ll test not only e-bikes and foot couriers in their regions but also larger vehicles like electric vans, traveling by waterway, and even a logistics pod that can follow a foot courier autonomously.