Online platform for carbon dioxide-free deliveries

Online platform for CO2-free deliveries
Credit: sylvrob1, Shutterstock
City centres are becoming increasingly congested by traffic, many of which are delivery vehicles. An EU-funded project has developed a solution for delivering packages that reduces traffic and eliminates carbon dioxide (CO2) and other harmful emissions.

The Horizon 2020 TiMMi Transport project has developed an online ride-sharing platform for inner-city deliveries that offers a high level of service while minimising environmental impacts. "The platform connects 'job requesters' who need their goods transported, such as package companies, online shops, laboratories and , with 'transporters', professional bike couriers who know how to do emission-free delivery, fast!" says project coordinator Dr. Christina Kleinau.

Increased capacity

A mobile web app that allows registered users to upload and accept delivery jobs is at the heart of TiMMi Transport's success. To upload a job, requesters enter details like the dimensions of the package, pick-up and delivery addresses, and their contact information. The TiMMi system also has open interfaces to web shops and other internal systems so that jobs can be automatically submitted en masse.

The job details are then displayed online, to be accepted by the network of professional bike couriers, who are connected to the platform. Transporters receive notifications about in their area, and if they accept one, the contact details of the sender and the recipient are exchanged privately. When a job is completed, the courier marks the job as done and the delivery confirmation is submitted back to the job requester.

It has long been known that bicycles are the quickest way to move goods from A to B within an urban environment. Until recently, there has not been a technically advanced system for the bike courier companies to coordinate orders from diverse mediums and locations. Now with the TiMMi system, bike couriers can receive orders from an online form, and online retail customers can select the CO2-free express delivery option for their purchase.

The future of logistics – cargo bikes

The project has developed a business relationship with some of Germany's largest companies and conducted tests on last-mile package delivery using large volume cargo bikes. "The test projects successfully proved the feasibility of cargo bikes, reducing pollutant emissions in inner-city areas. We are now discussing the best way to implement bike delivery on a wider scale," comments Dr. Kleinau. A lot is possible using large-volume cargo trikes and bike trailers, which can carry up to 250 kg, or a volume of 1.7 m3.

TiMMi Transport is set to become the inner-city service of choice, firstly for the ethical consumption sector, but also as a mainstream solution as climate protection becomes standard. "Approximately 20 percent of customers we deliver to express their appreciation of being delivered to by bike, instead of by van. The network of businesses we deliver for will be continually expanded to maximise the economic and ecological efficiency of the TiMMi network. We will also continue to expand and look forward to operating the service in international locations," concludes Dr. Kleinau.


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User comments

Dec 10, 2018
Is it really CO2 free when the overall thermal efficiency of the cyclist is worse than that of a car engine, and producing food creates many times the CO2 output per energy delivered?

Let's take a look at the idea again when farm tractors run on sunshine and 85% of the world's fertilizers aren't produced from fossil fuels.

Dec 10, 2018
The carbon footprint of a Big Mac cheeseburger is about 4 kg of CO2 equivalent gases. When you eat it, you get about 2200 kJ of energy, and cycling the bike you can put out about a quarter of that or 500 kJ in mechanical energy.

Assuming it takes 200 W to pedal a cargo bike at 20 kph, one Big Mac will get you about 40 minutes or 14 km down the road. That means 4 kg CO2 equivalent for 14 km, which is 285 gCO2/km. The 2015 standard for cars in the EU is 130 gCO2/km.

Most of the CO2 impact for the Big Mac comes from the beef, so if we drop that you save about 2.6 kg and the vegetarian cyclist, assuming he's not too flatulent, gets around at 100 gCO2/km, which is still above the upcoming 2020 fuel economy standard of 95 gCO2/km.

A moped that consumes 3 liters per 100 km at 45 kph produces 70 gCO2/km. Very similiar to a smart car.

Human power just isn't very efficient. The cargo bikes should rather be electric, and then for driver comfort, covered, heated and... oh, it's a car

Dec 15, 2018
For comparison, approximate gCO2/km emission for the cyclist for various foods:

Beef 475 g
Cheese 154 g
Chicken 116 g
Rice 72 g
Potatoes 50 g

Eating plain starches gets you past the EU vehicle emissions standards, although it won't be very healthy for you.

Meanwhile, the average electric power station puts out energy at roughly 300 gCO2/kWh where one kWh is enough to drive the 200 Watt bike some 100 km, so that means carbon emissions of 3 gCO2/km. Clearly these cargo bikes should be electric mopeds instead. In fact they should be built without pedals entirely to prevent the driver from taking part and thus emitting more CO2.

Walking is even worse. Even though it takes comparatively little energy, you're also not going anywhere in a hurry and it's less efficient than cycling. So, if we were to be consistent with our standards, walking should be carbon-taxed even more than the automobiles.

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