Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Velove and Pling Transport - Pedal-Powered Logistics: exactly how energy efficient?

Register of Initiatives in Pedal Powered Logistics - RIPPL #27

A Velove Armadillo in Pling Transport livery. Photo credit: Velove

The Armadillo is a unique vehicle. It's perhaps best to leave it to Swedish manufacturers Velove to provide a succinct description:
“a four wheel, fully suspended cargo cycle . . . Somebody called it a ‘mix of gokart, bike and van’, which we think pretty much nails it!”
The Armadillo is growing in popularity; in the last couple of years it has been adopted by a growing number of logistics operators across three continents, notably DHL who trialled it in Utrecht and Frankfurt.

One of Velove’s claims is that the Armadillo is extremely efficient; in terms of space, energy and resources used to manufacture it. To test their claims in one of these areas, namely energy efficiency, Velove teamed up with Gothenburg-based cycle logistics operator Pling Transport to run some research funded by the Swedish Energy Agency. Together, they ran a series of A-B tests in March 2017 to compare the efficiency of the Armadillo and a small electric van.
Five of Pling's regular routes, used for A-B testing. Image credit: Pling Transport
The results were very clear. The Armadillo was by far the most efficient, using just 6% of the electrical energy used by a standard Nissan e-NV200 with a similar load.

Measurements were taken on the actual amount of energy consumed whilst charging the batteries of both vehicles. Velove and Pling speculated that the following factors contributed to the results:
  • Weight difference: the Nissan was 17 times heavier than the Armadillo (this factor also has implications for resource efficiency)
  • Start-stop traffic adversely affecting the battery life of the Nissan
  • Charging losses and energy constantly being drawn whether the Nissan is driving or not
The Armadillo - according to the research, more efficient by a factor of 15. Image credit: Velove
Of course as demonstrated above, the vehicles weren't taking the exact same routes either - they took slightly different routes, but overall the distances taken were very similar. In practice however, the more nimble Armadillo would in many cities be able to take shorter routes in the dense urban landscape. Another factor could be the contribution provided by pedal-power to the Armadillo; a contribution fuelled, naturally, by food. The scope of the research didn’t stretch to evaluating what the couriers had had for breakfast (that would have made the research much more complicated), but it is true that energy from food would have contributed somewhat. An idea to include for future research perhaps, and it’s worth noting that Velove do tackle this point on their website:
“Some people argue that muscle powered transport is inefficient, as it is fuelled by food and there are a lot of energy losses when producing food and transforming it to muscle power. In one sense that is true, but on the other hand we all need exercise anyway to stay healthy. If you ride in a car or a van, you need to get the exercise some other way, which will most likely not produce useful energy, as transporting yourself and/or cargo.”

For full reports on the research, see the links to Velove and Pling Transport’s reports in the ‘Sources’ section below.

Pling and MaaS
Lastly, a note about Pling, who not only use the Armadillo for transporting goods, but also to provide a taxi service to the people of Gothenburg. The only example we at RIPPL know of a pedal powered articulated trailer providing Mobility as a Service.
Photo credit: Pling Transport
Innovations: efficiency, emissions reduction, MaaS

Organisation: Velove and Pling Transport
Sector: Commercial
City: Gothernburg
Country: Sweden
Bike Manufacturer: Velove
Basis: Permanent
Website: http://velove.se http://plingtransport.se
Facebook: Velove FacebookPling Transport Facebook
Twitter: Velove TwitterPling Transport Twitter
Contact: info@velove.se or info@plingtransport.se

Sources:
International Cargo Bike Festival: "Fietskoeriers bij DHL" (Dutch)
Velove: "The Armadillo cargo bike use 6 % of the electricity of a small electric van"
Pling Transport: "Elassisterad lastcykel 15 gånger energieffektivare än elskåpbil" (Swedish)
Pling Transport - Youtube: "Cargo bikes replacing van and truck deliveries" (Swedish, subtitled)
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