DHL launches new transport combination for urban distribution

DHL has today taken a new transport combination into use in Utrecht for inner-city distribution. It is a smart trailer in combination with the DHL container bike, the Cubicycle. This is a bicycle on four wheels with a detachable container of one cubic meter containing about 125 kilos of shipments. The containers are preloaded at a DHL operational location, transported by trailer to the city centre and placed there on the bicycle. This so-called 'City Hub' for cargo bikes can transport up to four containers and makes it possible to deliver larger packages in an environmentally friendly way in hard-to-reach city centres and to organise the return flow from the city.

Launch in Utrecht

With a simple movement, two bicycle couriers slid the containers onto their Cubicycle and with that the launch was a fact. This took place at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht where the trailer has its permanent location, close to the city center and at the same time easily accessible for the DHL van. The Jaarbeurs makes the place available free of charge as part of their sustainability ambition. The initiative is supported by the municipality of Utrecht. Alderman Lot van Hooijdonk of the municipality of Utrecht, responsible for Mobility and Sustainability, among other things, expresses her appreciation for the fact that DHL supplies the Utrecht city center emission-free and sees it as an interpretation of the motto of the college 'Utrecht we make together'. Utrecht wants to be climate neutral by 2030 and, like DHL, is affiliated with the Green Deal 'Zero Emission city logistics'. The 'City Hub' contributes to a climate-neutral city centre, which has made the municipality of Utrecht decide to give DHL permission to cycle in pedestrian areas. Other attendees at the launch were representatives of DHL, the municipality and the Jaarbeurs Utrecht and KPN.

Safety through the ‘internet of things’

The containers are equipped with a 'high secure slam lock' that ensures that the shipments are safely stored. In addition, the trailer and containers are equipped with the latest GPS techniques that accurately register all movements and that immediately signal if containers or trailers are moved unlawfully. The same GPS technology provides real-time status information of the packages and allows the bike courier to drive along the most efficient route. This 'City Hub' for cargo bikes is an innovative application via the LoRa network, which offers national coverage via KPN. LoRa stands for 'Long Range Low Power'. This technology can exchange small amounts of information between objects and systems at ultra-low power consumption. This data is graphically displayed on a map by means of an online dashboard. Solar panels on the container provide the necessary power supply. After a test period of three months, we will look at expanding the measurements that are made, in addition to location determination. For example, temperature and humidity in the containers to monitor the condition of the packages, or measuring vibration to properly monitor vulnerable loads.

About the Cubicycle

The Cubicycle, pronounced [kjoebi-sykel], is a bicycle on four wheels with a removable container of one cubic meter, with the size of a Euro pallet of 80x120x100 centimeters. This makes it easy to integrate into the standardized transport process. The container is preloaded separately in an operational DHL branch and then delivered filled to the bicycle in the city center. The main advantages over other bikes are the content and better connection to the operational systems. The Cubicycle was built by Velove from Sweden and has electric pedal assistance, especially to get going in the first meters. "The Cubicycle drives well, is surprisingly manoeuvrable and has a short turning circle," says Kees de Lange, Vice President Operations of DHL Express Netherlands. "Despite the large container, the bike fits perfectly on the cycle paths. For example, the standard size of poles on a cycle path has been taken into account. The height of the bike has also been chosen in such a way that other cyclists can look over it well." This distinguishes the Cubicycle from existing high-volume bikes. The big difference with the other 40 bicycles that DHL uses in Dutch inner cities is that larger packages can also be taken with you. Compared to the Parcycle (parcel cargo bike) and certainly in comparison with the backpack with the regular bike, the container of the Cubicycle offers much more space. On an average ride, it is loaded with 125 kilos of shipments and the bicycle courier travels about 50 km per day. DHL has 9 Cubicycles driving in several Dutch cities including Alkmaar, Breda, Houten, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Dhl Cubicycles are also running in Frankfurt and Antwerp.

Kees de Lange, Vice President Operations (DHL Express Nederland)

Next: international

At the same time as the 'City Hub' in Utrecht was commissioned, DHL today launched a similar container trailer for the Cubicycle in Frankfurt, Germany. The inventor of the concept is Arne Melse, a Dutchman who once started as a bicycle courier for DHL in Amsterdam and now uses his experiences on a global scale within DHL.  

Written by

Ewout Blaauw

Director Corporate Communications