Support BikePortland

UPS teams with Portland State and City of Portland for e-trike delivery pilot

Posted by on November 6th, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Out with the old, in with the new?
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nine years after their first e-bike pilot kicked off in Hamburg, Germany, United Parcel Service (UPS) is still testing whether or not electric-and-pedal assisted trikes can replace traditional delivery trucks in dense urban areas. Today at the South Park Blocks on the Portland State University Campus, the delivery giant hosted a large event to launch what they refer to as the “UPS Urban Solutions E-Bike” initiative.

How it will work.
(Source: UPS)

In partnership with PSU and the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, the initiative will deploy one electric-assisted cargo trike for a year. According to PSU officials at this morning’s event, UPS currently has two dedicated trucks that deliver packages within the university district. The intention of this new effort is to see if they can replace one of those trucks with an electric trike. UPS has launched similar pilot programs in recent years in Pittsburgh and Seattle and currently operates an e-bike deliver program in several cities around the globe including Paris, Berlin, London, Dublin, Rome, and others.

For their latest Portland pilot, a UPS truck will drop off a container full of four cargo pods in a staging area on the PSU campus. The trike operator will then load one pod at a time and make deliveries from the staging area. At the end of the day, a UPS truck will retrieve the empty pods and bring them back to the warehouse.

The trike shown at today’s event was a Truck Trike designed by Portland-based Stites Design, which we first profiled in 2010. UPS has partnered with Stites twice in the past: In a separate Portland pilot in 2016 and in a Seattle pilot in 2018. As we reported in September, UPS has also worked with the Rytle MovR platform, a German-designed trike made in Portland.

Advertisement

This morning’s event included a lot of public relations and marketing materials from UPS. There was a line of banners tracing the company’s history, a full spread of lunch for all the invited VIPs (with pre-printed lanyards for each one), lots of free swag, and a table urging people to apply for UPS jobs.

“We’re doubling down on our ability to go green,” said UPS Northwest President Joe Braham, who touted the e-bike initiative as part of his company’s larger effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiency in dense cities where larger vehicles are either too difficult to maneuver or are infeasible due to infrastructural limitations or local ordinances (i.e. carfree zones). When I asked Braham how this pilot would be different than any of the other pilots they’ve launched in other cities, he said, “That falls back on the partnerships we have with the cities.” As for the different bike platforms they’re testing, he said, “The trike we use depends on the context. We’re trying many different types of vehicles and we’re not set on any one thing. We’re learning as we go.”

This latest experiment is due to begin in a few weeks. Stay tuned for a report on how it’s going.

(In my opinion: Given the media attention and free advertising UPS receives every time they announce one of these new e-bike pilots, it makes me wonder whether the bikes are simply a greenwashing/marketing tool. It seems after so many years of studies and pilots, a company of this size would be able to either go big and deploy a real bike delivery program, or cut bait and end the experiments.)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

24
Leave a Reply

avatar
8 Comment threads
16 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
AndyKChris IChampsJasonThe Dude Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
todd boulanger
Guest
todd boulanger

Jonathan – what are the two “grab” bars on the rear of the delivery trike / trishaw? And also the panel above it?

todd boulanger
Guest
todd boulanger

PS. These UPS cargo pods are just like the old way that the USPS delivered mail on foot (and bike) with the green relay boxes you still see [abandoned] on some city sidewalks …

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

“[I]t makes me wonder whether the bikes are simply a greenwashing/marketing tool.”

Given the business model is totally dependent on continuous subsidized carbon pollution, I also “wonder” that. But one thing I know: Your commitment to the principle of impartiality is admirable.

I also wonder if you feel your mission requires you to cover this “event” as “news”? Or would you feel free to simply issue an opinion piece (or weekly summary note) about it, given it’s apparent role in the overall political/marketing process?

Lowell
Guest
Lowell

Jonathan, since you seemed to have an opportunity to ask Joe Braham questions about this project, did you ask him to respond to your suspicions (which are shared by many of us) that these perpetual tests are just a greenwashing campaign?

Daniel Johnson
Guest
Daniel Johnson

They started as a fleet of bicycles and people on foot. Just getting back to their roots.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

And also night delivery by street car / trolley when the [private] transit services were closed.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

I think it is a cool idea in areas with congestion like most of inner Portland. I think it looks a little bit too wide to be a welcome presence in bike lanes.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Sounds like a good reason to widen the bike lanes.

Jason
Guest
Jason

What if the streets were bike lanes and cars were only allowed as intercity travel?

Champs
Guest
Champs

Even the deepest red quarters of America want sustainable energy.

My point: the less cynical reading is simply that it’s about the money. Emissions are just a happy side benefit where solar is cheaper than coal or bikes make more sense as last mile vehicles.

AndyK
Subscriber

If we banned cars in the central city, awesome trikes like these would be the largest vehicles on the streets.