The trusty delivery van may be the most common form of last mile delivery in cities around the world, but its position atop the throne is now being challenged by an unlikely competitor: the humble electric cargo bicycle.

Cargo e-bikes are similar to most electric bicycles in that they feature an assist motor and battery to help the rider travel faster and farther. But unlike most electric bicycles, cargo e-bikes have longer, more robust frames designed to carry significantly larger loads and sometimes even additional passengers.

A new study has found that in urban areas, electric cargo bicycles make deliveries 60% faster than delivery vans.

While delivery vans may be capable of carrying more packages, they are much less efficient at actually making deliveries.

The study found that electric cargo bikes were capable of making 10 deliveries per hour on average in urban areas, while delivery vans recorded just 6 deliveries in the same period.

The major factor was the increased average speed of delivery e-bikes. They were able to utilize bicycle lanes and thus avoid getting bogged down in traffic. Larger delivery vans don’t have the same luxury, ultimately spending much more time waiting in traffic.

A popular electric cargo bike designed for carrying people or goods

The study also found that cargo electric bicycles didn’t just get deliveries done faster, they also performed the job much more cleanly.

Compared to diesel vans, the cargo e-bikes cut emissions by 90%. Even compared to electric vans, cargo e-bikes had 30% fewer emissions.

While electric delivery vans are slowly becoming more commonplace, they still can’t compete with cargo e-bikes on efficiency or emissions.

They’re a huge improvement over fossil fuel-powered vans, but they use more energy to make deliveries and they get bogged down in traffic just the same.

An electric Rivian Van making deliveries in San Francisco

The speed and efficiency advantages of electric cargo bikes have been exploited by a number of industries.

E-bike maker Tern recently teamed up with Dutch-X to combine the latter’s NYC delivery service with the former’s heavy duty electric cargo bikes.

Third party logistics companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL have employed cargo e-bikes to increase the speed and efficiency of package deliveries in urban areas.

Hospitals have used cargo e-bikes as mini-ambulances to more quickly deliver EMTs and their life-saving first aid to emergency sites.

And cargo e-bikes are even being used by entrepreneurs to operate food trucks and ice-cream vans on smaller, cheaper and more sustainable platforms.

Electrek’s Take

I file this one in the ‘duh’ category.

Cargo e-bikes simply make so much sense. I’ve always had a thing for e-bikes that can carry more than one person, and cargo e-bikes combine that shared fun factor with extreme utility for carrying cargo/groceries/supplies/deliveries/etc.

They have the ability to replace so many types of vehicles.

Think you need a minivan to move apartments? I’ve done it on a cargo e-bike.

Think you need a truck to make a lumber run to your local home improvement store? I’ve done it on a cargo e-bike.

Think you need an SUV to haul all the kids to school? I’ve done it on a cargo e-bike.

Think you need a van to pick up a new bike? Mikey’s done it on a cargo e-bike.

There’s just so much utility to be had with a cargo electric bike. What’s not to like?!

radwagon 4 electric cargo bike
My nephews and I enjoying a cargo e-bike

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About the Author

Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd, and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power, The Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide and The Electric Bike Manifesto.

The e-bikes that make up Micah’s current daily drivers are the $999 Lectric XP 2.0, the $1,095 Ride1Up Roadster V2, the $1,199 Rad Power Bikes RadMission, and the $3,299 Priority Current. But it’s a pretty evolving list these days.

You can send Micah tips at Micah@electrek.co, or find him on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.