British Gas owner Centrica is looking to add a number of e-cargo bikes to its fleet. The firm says that the vehicles would allow it to more easily serve customers in clean air and ultra-low emissions zones.
Fleet News reports that Centrica currently operates one of the UK’s biggest electric vehicle fleets, running around 1,000 Vauxhall e-Vivaros with another 2,000 ordered.
However, the firm’s fleet manager Steve Winter believes that it also needs smaller, pedal-powered vehicles.
“I’m looking at cargo bikes,” he said. “Engineers don’t want a cargo bike, but that might be the way we go because of the number of clean air zones (CAZs) and ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZs) coming.
"Some places may say you’re not actually allowed to bring a [motor] vehicle in there. How are we going to service a boiler in that area? How are we going to upgrade that heating system?
“We need to look at our supply chain and say, ‘instead of carrying all those parts on a van, is there a different way to service those customers?’”
It would however be quite a move from a firm who implicitly mocked the notion of carrying a significant load on a bike in an ad campaign for green tariffs last year.
Another large firm considering an e-cargo bike fleet is Clarion Response, the repairs and maintenance arm of the UK’s largest housing association, the Clarion Housing Group. Fleet manager Colin Hutt argues that workers don’t necessarily need a van every day.
“We’ve been looking at the potential of pop-up stores on our London estates where we would store tools and stock,” he said.
“So, instead of carrying those items around with them, our operatives could go to one of those locations and grab the stuff they need. There might be guys who would happily use a mountain bike, an e-bike or an e-cargo bike.”
We’ve also previously reported on construction company FM Conway, which has been using e-cargo bikes to deliver materials in London.
Transport for London’s Illuminated River Project will see it move 4,000 light fittings, 15km of power and data cabling and 250,000 bolts and fixings.
Senior contract manager Adam Barnes said: “With five bridges in the centre of London, and in heavily pedestrianised areas, our challenge was being able to deliver our goods direct to the points of work day-in, day-out, while not wasting valuable time spent between sites.
“The e-cargo bikes we use have not only increased our efficiency, but have given us the ability to utilise our workforce across multiple projects and be reactive to certain situations across various locations during the day.”
The bikes can carry up to 250kg and have far lower maintenance costs than vans – not least because there are no charges for the congestion zone, ultra-low emissions zone or for parking.
“The toughest challenge was getting our workforce to adapt to the bikes,” said Barnes. “But now they’re on them, they can’t stop getting on them.”