UPS to Deliver Packages by eCargo Bike in Seattle

Today at their Seattle SoDo hub with media and dignitaries present, UPS launched an electric cargo bike solution to address Seattle’s traffic and air quality problems. And, to get their customer’s packages delivered.

The e-assist trike shown on a sunnier day in Seattle.

UPS has teased their bike and trailer solution a few times now and right before the holiday season. Considered Seattle’s Period of Maximum Constraint is happening soon when the viaduct is torn down this winter, UPS is piloting their e-assist program for a year.

Covering a delivery area from south Belltown to the southern end of the market, UPS cargo bikes and modular trailers will deliver where delivery trucks can’t go or get bogged down in armageddon-level traffic.

In 2016, eBike deliveries were tried in Portland and 5 years before that in Hamburg, Germany. Cleaner air, reduced carbon intensity, and fuel savings sure, but what’s driving this mostly is the UPS delivery model has changed from dropping stacks of boxes at a business to dropping individual packages from retailers like Amazon at customer’s homes.

The e-assist program launched in the rain at the UPS SoDo distribution center south of downtown Seattle.
Jacob ‘Jake’ Jewett demonstrates loading the container onto the trike.
The trike is shown here connected to the container trailer.

If you live in Seattle and frequent the West Seattle Bridge, you’ve likely seen brown trucks crawling onto the freeway from the SoDo hub. Of course, time is money and us cycling commuters know, you can get around town a lot faster by bike than car, bus, or train.

I’m most curious about what the drivers think, who got the bike assignment and if they’re excited about it. UPS started as a bike messenger company in Seattle and is now innovating the city’s future of cargo transportation. The pilot will last for a year, but based on what I heard during the launch, the Seattle staff is very enthused about it.

I know I’m excited about what UPS is doing because of my enthusiasm for delivering goods by bike, like with the Tern GSD.

Trike Specs

Front regenerating hub and brake.
Rear powered hub
Built by Truck Trike in Portland.

The trikes were designed and built by Truck Trike in Portland. The cargo containers were manufactured by Silver Eagle. The trikes are powered by rear hub motors with motorcycle-sized brakes. The front regenerates power to the dual battery packs. UPS called the drivers their, “Industrial Athletes.”

UPS wasn’t ready to talk range and efficient yet, as the program just started. I’ll learn more about that topic at a follow-on event during the first delivery run in a couple weeks. What’s new since UPS launched the e-assist as a concept in 2012, is the container system and how it’s connected to their Orion software for maximum efficiency. In prior tests drivers manually sorted the packages and now the containers are packed at the distribution center, delivered to the area, and the trikes pick them up and drivers follow the delivery route.

Jacob ‘Jake’ Jewett’s jersey.

The execs at the event emphasized how important launching in Seattle is because 111 years after their founding as a messenger company, UPS is going back to bicycles.

That’s how they got started in Seattle.


Also published on Medium.