Alternative delivery methods - how delivery services can modernise shipping

Alternative delivery methods - how delivery services can modernise shipping
Sat, 16/02/2019

Bicycle instead of car and electric instead of diesel. We already know this advice. Transport is responsible for around 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Some mail-order companies are therefore now making a special effort and creating alternative delivery methods. They want to make parcel delivery better and more environmentally friendly, and at the same time find a good solution for last-mile delivery. In addition to flying delivery men some are now focusing on electric mobility, various depot solutions and artificial intelligence in e-commerce.

1. City Hub and E-Bike

DHL shows itself innovative. With the "City Hubs" project, the supplier is creating an environmentally friendly alternative to delivery cars. In Frankfurt, Deutsche Post is testing the so-called "Cubicycles". The carrier rides on a four-wheeled vehicle with pedals. In the rear there is a box in which the parcels are transported. This takes up less space from delivery trucks and reduces CO2 emissions. GSL is also joining in. The logistics company first carried out deliveries with e-bikes in Constance. Now the intelligent bikes can also be seen whizzing along the streets in Nuremberg, Düsseldorf and Dortmund.

Thanks to their trailers, the cargo bikes can adjust their transport volume. Depending on the load, the right trailer can be chosen. In this way, the logistics company manages to save diesel vehicles and operate parcel logistics in a more resource-friendly way. The electric bike does not fit as much as a delivery van, but the suppliers save time looking for a parking space. Especially in crowded city centres, the "Cubicycles" and the "GSL E-Bike" can be a good solution.

Image GLS is on the road with e-bikes to relieve the burden on roads and the environment (Source: GLS)

2nd container

The American shipping company UPS is currently testing container concepts and alternative delivery vehicles in Hamburg. According to this, lorry containers in the centre are to serve as interim storage. From there, parcel carriers will deliver the goods on foot, with handcarts or bicycles. In the morning, UPS fills the containers with the parcels from the central warehouses. Each parcel is taken to the nearest depot of the destination. From there, the messengers pick up the goods and bring them to the customer.

But what is the point? Parcel delivery drivers often have to park their vans in the second row. This interferes with traffic. In addition, the container variant offers the possibility to better plan the arrival of the goods. This is because delays due to accidents and traffic jams can be bypassed more easily. This allows traders to communicate better with their customers and keep them constantly informed about the status of their order. Through personalised shipping messages and on-time arrival of the goods, a good trader-customer relationship can be built.

3. Delivery robot from Starship

The small autonomous robots are designed to assist delivery services, similar to the delivery drone, in the last mile. They travel at around 6.4 km/h on the roads, which is about as fast as a pedestrian. The little helpers can carry up to 10 kilograms over a distance of 5 kilometres. The goods are stored inside the robot. Especially for deliveries from local shops, this solution could bring some advantages. They can drive independently, avoid obstacles and stop at red lights.

Image The start-up Starship has developed a delivery robot (Source: Starship)

Hermes is already carrying out test runs with the small robot. In Hamburg, the delivery service Domino's has been using it for delivery for some time - albeit still accompanied by an employee. In the future, however, the robots will be fully automatic. Only one employee will monitor up to 100 vehicles via the internet and intervene if necessary. Whether we will see them on German roads in the future, however, is questionable. In Hamburg, a robot has already experienced violence. There it was kicked by passers-by. In 2016, a flag of a robot was even reportedly stolen. The Starship robots cannot ring a doorbell either. This could make the delivery of goods difficult if the customer does not have a smartphone. Until now, they have received a message on their smartphone when the robot has reached its destination. Via an app, the consumer can open the lid of the vehicle and take out his order.

4. boot delivery

Some car companies are currently working with delivery services to implement the car boot delivery project. DHL and VW are currently in the testing phase. Starting this year, VW owners will be able to have their DHL parcels delivered to the boot. The prerequisite for this project is a vehicle with a networked control unit. Before completing the order, the vehicle owners must generate a TAN via an app and enter it together with the delivery address.

In order for the parcel carrier to be able to drop off the package, the VW owner must determine a time window for the delivery and park the car at a location accessible to the parcel carrier. This location should not be more than 300 metres away from the delivery address. The car is located by DHL via GPS and the boot is opened by means of a tan key. There should be no additional costs for the car boot delivery. However, this project also poses some problems. For example, parking within a radius of 300 metres in crowded city centres could be difficult, making delivery to the boot impossible.

Image VW and DHL launched the car boot delivery project together (Source: DPDHL)

5th Electric Delivery Truck

VW and Mercedes have already led the way. Electric delivery vans are supposed to relieve the cities by avoiding noise and dirt. Of course, such an acquisition comes with advantages and disadvantages. The VW e-Crafter, for example, has a range of 173 kilometres and can drive up to 90 km/h. It costs 69 500 euros, which is 15,000 euros. It costs 69,500 euros, which is 15,000 euros more than a similar diesel model. However, VW has calculated that the e-Crafer costs less than half the energy of a diesel Crafter. If the diesel driving ban were enforced in the cities, the e-transporters could be a real alternative.

The number of 3 billion parcels delivered annually will increase in the coming years. The purchase of an electric vehicle also holds some gifts. When buying such a vehicle, the buyer gets a 4,000 euro subsidy. However, this does not apply to all models. In the list of eligible vehicles of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control you can find out about the models concerned. In addition, those who register a new electric vehicle by 31 December 2020 at the latest will have their vehicle tax waived for 10 years.

###Performance of the 100 largest German online shops

6. Parcel stations for apartment buildings

Some are familiar with the embarrassed walk to the neighbour's house because a parcel has been left there for you for the umpteenth time. Even a walk to the nearest parcel station is not an option for many. And if consumers do have their parcel delivered to the parcel shop, they often pick it up by car. This causes additional CO2. However, if the parcel box is located directly in front of the house, there is no need to walk to the parcel station or to the neighbour's house. That is why DHL now wants to set up parcel boxes in front of apartment buildings.

In Berlin, the logistics company has already started a trial with such stations. And this is how it works: The customer orders as usual on the Internet. The service provider places the parcel in the compartment of the parcel station. The customer is then informed of the parcel's arrival by email or app and can pick it up from the parcel station. Even when returning parcels, residents can simply place their return in the parcel box. The parcel carrier will then take the parcel back with him on his next visit.

Image DHL's parcel boxes for apartment buildings are designed to make delivery easier (Source: DHL)


Alternative delivery methods show there is another way! There are now many ways to modernise your own shipping and delivery process. Whether delivery services switch from conventional delivery vans to electric vehicles or find alternative depot options. You can avoid traffic congestion from delivery trucks, improve the last mile problem and do something good for the environment at the same time. The market for alternative delivery methods will continue to evolve. Companies will come up with even more ideas to further optimise shipping and delivery. After all, online retail will not disappear from the scene anytime soon.

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