Knox: The Cargo E-trike. E bike cargo tricycle

Riding an electric cargo trike: everything you need to know!

and more people choose to use a tricycle for daily transportation. Its popularity is increasing by the day thanks to numerous qualities: stability, comfort, positive impact on the environment and many more. But an electric cargo trike offers several advantages that a normal tricycle doesn’t. Including their speed, ease of use, and children or load transportation. This encourages people to choose them over normal bikes or trikes.

What exactly is an electric cargo trike? Could it be a good alternative for your daily trips with your family or for professional purposes? Keep reading if you want to know!

What exactly is an electric cargo trike and what are the perks?

In order to know what an electric cargo trike is, we need to talk about normal tricycles first.

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They have 3 wheels, usually two at the front or at the back. This means that you will have very good balance thanks to the stability the three wheels bring. It will allow you to do many things such as cross wet or bumpy roads and even go up a steep hill as slowly as you want without being worried about tipping over!


A tricycle is also good if you are looking for comfort. The three wheels offer more space to have a comfortable seat, sometimes even with a backrest. Much comfier than a bike saddle!

Great for beginners

They are also great for beginners, people who are out of shape or people who just want to have fun and enjoy cycling without thinking about their performance or balance!

So far, everything we have said also goes for an electric cargo trike.

Tricycle drawback:

Even though all these qualities are what encouraged people to prefer a tricycle over a bicycle, they still have a significant little drawback: pedalling to carry the tricycle’s weight (and what you transport) which can make your trips a bit harder. This is something that could discourage some people, but it just depends on what you are looking for in a tricycle!

Don’t worry! If you are one of those who don’t want to buy a tricycle because of this physical drawback, we have the solution: an electric cargo trike!

An electric cargo trike is a trike with a built-in electric motor offering pedal assist power for the rider. Therefore, every time you pedal, the motor kicks in and boosts your speed. Some even allow you to ride without pedalling!

Thanks to the electric drive, you can ride effortlessly without straining too much as opposed to a regular tricycle.

Natural feeling

If you are not sure about how riding an electric tricycle would feel, all we can say is that you won’t feel forcefully pulled forward by the motor, it actually feels quite natural just like a normal tricycle but faster!

To summarise everything said above, the choice between a normal tricycle and an electric cargo trike depends on how you want to use it! If you still want to feel like you are exercising, a tricycle is a great option. However, if you are not looking for the sport side of cycling, an electric bike is probably the best!

Keep reading if you want to discover our guide for buying an electric cargo trike!

Before buying an electric cargo trike what should I be aware of?

If we have convinced you to look into buying an electric cargo trike, there are a few things you should know first!

What is the best motor to choose for a 3 wheel electric bike

The force that the 3 wheel electric bike motor gives during movement is called “torque” and is measured in Newton/meters (Nm). Generally, the average torque is between 15 and 85 Nm. In a nutshell, the higher the motor torque is, the higher the force will be which means that it is easier to climb steep hills, the motor helps you pedal more. Once you have understood how a motor works (in broad terms), here are the different types:

The motor in the front wheel hub

This type is very popular among the cycling community. Indeed, it is the easiest to install and is also very often the less expensive option! It is very easy to use when climbing hills or when riding in general because it doesn’t interfere with the chains or the pedals. It also doesn’t interfere with the rear wheel so it reduces grip loss when cornering: it is the safest option.

Among the front wheel motors, there is the reduced front motor. It has a device that starts motors with reduced power supplied at start-up. Reducing the power reduces potentially damaging electrical and mechanical shocks on the system. Thanks to this, the motors lifespan is extended, the loss of rear wheel grip is reduced, and the 3 wheel electric bike becomes lighter!

The motor on the bicycle drive (in the middle)

This type of motor is the most sophisticated type of electric assistance. It is controlled by three things: the torque (the motor’s force), the speed but also the pedalling rate. It works just like a brain which means that the higher the pressure you put on the pedals, the more power the motor will send and therefore, the quicker you will go.

As the motor is in the middle of the 3 wheel electric bike frame, the weight distribution is optimized (not equally if the battery is at the back). The bike will be more stable and manageable, you could even forget that there is an electric drive! This is perfect for medium to long journeys.

However, there are 3 main drawbacks:

  • This type of motor weighs 1.5kg on average which is much more than the other two options. There are lighter ones, but they are pricier. It is also noisier and more expensive.
  • You will probably need to change the chain every so often because this motor pulls on it, even if it is strong, if you use your 3 wheel electric bike everyday.
  • This motor controls a few things at once including the gearbox so their lifespan could be shortened.

The motor on the rear wheel

When the motor is on the rear wheel of the 3 wheel electric bike, it takes away the feeling of heaviness, you don’t feel like you are being pulled. If you like a more dynamic experience, this option is perfect for you!

However, there quite a few drawbacks you need to know about:

  • You mustn’t be scared of getting your hands dirty: because of the shifter at the back, the risk of the chain derailing is higher.
  • In case of a flat tire, you’ll need to know about mechanics because it is harder to detach the wheel
  • Most of the time, batteries are on the middle of the bike or at the back. If the motor and the battery are both at the back, this means there will be a poor weight distribution!

If you are ready to buy an electric tricycle you should know every little detail about the price, the storage space, the motor and the battery.


The first thing you need to know is that an e-trike is more expensive than a bike or a tricycle. For it to be cost-effective you’ll have to know how much you plan on using it, the distance you will travel and the type of roads you will be riding on before making your decision. If you plan on using it on a day-to-day basis and on hilly roads then buying an electric tricycle is a great idea.

Depending on the quality of the motor, the battery, and the storage space the price will naturally change. Generally: Higher the quality, higher the price.

Storage space

You must really think about what you are going to do with your bike. You have to imagine your life on a daily basis, will you carry your kids? Will you carry loads? Your pets? If so, you will have to consider buying an electric cargo trike bike with storage space.

For this, we have an idea that we’ll talk about later!


The size of the motor is what determines your speed. This mainly depends on your preference, if you are looking to go faster, choose a bigger motor. The EU regulations on e-bikes allow the electric drive to reach a maximum speed of 15.5mph or 25 km/h. Most e-tricycles have a 200 to 250W motor and allow you to reach a top speed of 16 to 25 km/h or 10 to 15.5 mph.


You also have to consider how you will use your electric cargo trike. E-trikes generally have two modes: a full-electric mode and a pedal-assist mode.

On one hand, if you plan on mostly using the pedal-assist mode, you will use less battery than if you use the full-electric mode therefore, you won’t need a very big battery.

On the other hand, if you plan on using only the full-electric mode, you’ll need a bigger battery.The choice of the battery also depends on the distance and how much you will use the bike.E-trikes generally offer from 32 km or 20 miles on a single charge in the pedal-assist mode up to 72 km or 45 miles in the same mode. You can also consider buying a second battery to make longer trips.

Battery composition

Today, batteries are lithium-based and there are three types: Lithium-Polymer (Li-Po), Lithium-Phosphate (LifePO4) and Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion).Li-ion batteries are mostly used because they have a larger storage capacity while having a little weight and volume and an excellent lifespan! Those that are used daily and maintained normally will have a 5-6 years life span and 500-600 charge-discharge cycles.They still work after this period, but their capacity is reduced, which means frequent recharging.

Battery capacity

The battery capacity is calculated by multiplying the battery current (Ah) by its voltage (V). A mid-range battery has 36V and 10Ah, which equals a total power of 360 watts/hour. The higher these parameters are, the longer the battery will last (and the more expensive it will be!). Of course, the more powerful the bike’s motor, the more electricity it consumes and the shorter the battery’s life.

Once you have taken all of this into account, you’ll be ready to buy an electric cargo trike, you still need to read our tips for riding an electric tricycle for the first time just below!

Knox: The Cargo E-trike

We added the City’s first electric-assist cargo tricycle to central fleet. We wanted to know if we could encourage employees to use a zero-emission vehicle for work trips.

The experiment

We used a grant to buy a three-wheeled, front-loaded, cargo tricycle with electric assistance. We wanted to help City employees lead by example while conducting City business. We hypothesized that for short-distance trips, the trike would be a reasonable replacement for a car or truck. That’s assuming that an employee needed to carry something for their work trip, making walking or taking the MBTA less feasible.

The name for the City’s employee vehicle check-out system is FleetHub. We analyzed FleetHub data for trips made between September 2018 and September 2019.

  • Number of trips: ~6500
  • Median distance (round-trip): ~9 miles
  • Number of trips at or less than the median distance: ~2500

Working with Public Works, we offered to host the prototype for two years to kick the tires on the trike. We are currently exploring logistics around:

  • storage and maintenance
  • data management
  • employee training
  • resident perceptions and feedback, and
  • vehicle checkout and return.

We took inspiration from other cities and organizations who were testing whether cargo bikes and trikes made sense. In particular, we looked at:

  • Madison, WI: partnered with a local manufacturer to add a cargo bike to their fleet
  • Denton, TX: bought a trike to replace employee car trips for hauling things around town
  • Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ (along with an Arboretum in Arkansas): bought cargo trikes for landscaping work, including hauling mulch and compost.

Closer to home, we see examples of cargo bikes at:

  • the Arnold Arboretum
  • the BiblioCycle at the Boston Public Library. and
  • the BPM Blueberry. the market’s produce cargo trike.

We initiated the purchase of the trike in March 2020, before Boston declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19. With the pandemic, our launch timeline was delayed. The community meetings that we also imagined employees would need the trike for moved to virtual sessions. We are being responsive to the moment and finding new, safe uses for the trike until public meetings return.

Why we did this

The Environment Department released the City’s Climate Action Plan update in October 2019. We wanted to explore a prototype that aligned with that commitment.

One thing the plan calls for is reducing municipal carbon emissions. The City’s Central Fleet of vehicles accounts for roughly 25 percent of our local government emissions. So we wondered a few things:

  • If we added a cargo electric-assist trike to the fleet, would employees want to use it instead of a car or truck?
  • How would residents perceive the City’s use of the cargo e-trike to reduce our emissions?

The trike also supports Go Boston 2030. the City of Boston’s long-range, equitable transportation plan. Go Boston aims to encourage mode shift away from single-occupancy vehicle trips toward low-emission modes of travel. These included walking, biking, and public transit.

We hope to learn what benefits this zero-emission vehicle can bring through testing.

Honoring Kittie Knox

We wanted the City’s first cargo e-trike to be doubly special. So, we decided to name it after a trailblazing Bostonian: Kittie Knox.

On August 20, 2020, in the virtual naming ceremony, the tricycle was named after Katherine “Kittie” Knox. Knox was a biracial West End resident in the 1880s who confronted racial and gender stereotypes in Boston’s bicycling community. Mayor Walsh also proclaimed August 20, 2020, Kittie Knox Day in Boston.

We also partnered with Women’s Advancement and the Environment Department. We incorporated the virtual naming ceremony into Women’s Advancement’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of suffrage.

What We Learned

During the prototype period, employees took 85 trips with Knox and logged 362 miles (for an average roundtrip of 4.25 miles). According to employee reports, 27 of the 85 trips (32 percent) otherwise would have been taken with a Central Fleet vehicle or some other car. A pool of 34 employees opted in to use the trike for work purposes. We hypothesize that the pandemic played a large role in subduing employee interest in using the trike, particularly while some City employees were still on a work-from-home policy due to the pandemic, and because public meetings moved online.

We hoped that by avoiding Boston’s notorious vehicle traffic, employees would:

We did not suggest mandating that everyone use the trike, or that cargo trikes or bikes replace all trucks and cars in the fleet. However, for specific types of tasks and work trips — chief among them, hauling heavy things a short or medium distance — the trike seems to have increased employee satisfaction, as evidenced by the following self-reported quotes:

“I’m happy to report that my first event with Knox went well. Overall, I look forward to using her again!”

“It was so useful, a little hard to go over bumps with so much stuff, but honestly made all the difference. Who needs parking ?”

“. I think most people would take a fleethub but I don’t have a license so I would have carried [my cargo] on the train very uncomfortably or someone helping me would take them on a Fleethub. Thank you for making it possible to have a mode of transportation that allows me (us) to arrive at public engagement meetings with all our cargo!”

“Thank you! It was a blast riding it! I felt a bit more comfortable riding with it on some higher-stress streets than I would on my normal bike. I think a combination of the size and having the electric assist…”

We know many of our plans and goals ask a lot of our business community and residents. We hoped that through leading by example, we could show our many constituencies that we, too, are doing the work necessary to make Boston carbon-neutral by 2050.

We weren’t able to learn as much in this domain as we hoped, primarily because the majority of the prototype happened while the City was still under its public health emergency declaration due to the Covid pandemic. Even once that was lifted, entirely in-person public events have been slow to return. However, anecdotally, when residents encountered Knox on the street or at Neighborhood Coffee Hours or other events, they indicated joyful surprise that the City was actually testing out this vehicle type in its fleet.

“. Constituents and BID members came up to the trike and had so many questions! They were excited to see this idea being tested and were super impressed.”

— City employee who brought the trike to Boston Blooms

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Measuring delivery route cost trade-offs between electric-assist cargo bicycles and delivery trucks in dense urban areas

Completing urban freight deliveries is increasingly a challenge in congested urban areas, particularly when delivery trucks are required to meet time Windows. Depending on the route characteristics, Electric Assist (EA) cargo bicycles may serve as an economically viable alternative to delivery trucks. The purpose of this paper is to compare the delivery route cost trade-offs between box delivery trucks and EA cargo bicycles that have the same route and delivery characteristics, and to explore the question, under what conditions do EA cargo bikes perform at a lower cost than typical delivery trucks?


The independent variables, constant variables, and assumptions used for the cost function comparison model were gathered through data collection and a literature review. A delivery route in Seattle was observed and used as the base case; the same route was then modelled using EA cargo bicycles.

Four separate delivery scenarios were modeled to evaluate how the following independent route characteristics would impact delivery route cost. distance between a distribution center (DC) and a neighborhood, number of stops, distance between each stop, and number of parcels per stop.


The analysis shows that three of the four modeled route characteristics affect the cost trade-offs between delivery trucks and EA cargo bikes. EA cargo bikes are more cost effective than delivery trucks for deliveries in close proximity to the DC (less than 2 miles for the observed delivery route with 50 parcels per stop and less than 6 miles for the hypothetical delivery route with 10 parcels per stop) and at which there is a high density of residential units and low delivery volumes per stop.


Delivery trucks are more cost effective for greater distances from the DC and for large volume deliveries to one stop.


Understanding the complexity of freight deliveries in dense urban areas is increasingly important. Many cities in the United States are recognizing the impact of urban population growth and e-commerce on freight volumes and the number of freight vehicles on the road. To combat the growing pressures of freight in major urban areas, cities across the U.S. are responding by deploying alternative transportation modes for delivering goods, such as cargo bikes. It is worthwhile to explore the capabilities of EA cargo bicycles in dense urban areas because it is feasible that this technology could play a role in how cities respond to an increased need for goods movement. The European Cycle Logistics Federation reported that, “50% of all light goods, and 25% of all goods could be moved by cycle” [1]. The capabilities and limitations of EA cargo bikes are poorly understood, and increased knowledge about EA cargo bikes could empower and reform the freight industry.

The objective of this research is to explore the question, under which route conditions and delivery characteristics do EA cargo bikes perform at a lower cost? This research is motivated by a need to develop a methodological approach that can be replicated and to quantify how bikes may perform in comparison to a standard delivery truck. This question is investigated by capturing route costs associated with each transportation mode in four different delivery scenarios, and by identifying the conditions under which either delivery alternative is preferred with this measurement framework. The findings from this research may be used to support 1) cities when selecting or permitting neighborhoods for cargo bike trials, and 2) carriers when deciding which areas may be most appropriate for cargo bike implementation.

Major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and other parts of the world are facing congestion and environmental issues. The growing number of single occupancy vehicles and truck operations add pressure to transportation networks and infrastructure. Cities are trying to cope with the increased demand for scarce road space by building more transit infrastructure and eliminating parking spaces. Nevertheless, increasing e-commerce activity by city residents drives delivery vehicles to city streets and on-street parking facilities are often unable to accommodate the increased delivery demand. Freight infrastructure in metropolitan areas is unlikely to significantly change to accommodate this increase, and it is important to consider alternative delivery modes. It is clear from traffic congestion, idling trucks, and the lack of sufficient Commercial Vehicle Load Zones (designated freight curb space) that current freight infrastructure is challenged to meet the diverse and dynamic delivery needs of the last mile, which is described as the most costly part of the supply chain in which goods are transported between a DC or warehouse and the recipient’s location [2]. To address urban freight delivery challenges, EA cargo bicycles are being utilized for last mile deliveries in several urban cities [3].

Electric Assist (EA) cargo bicycles have been of interest to several major delivery companies as an alternative to trucks for completing urban deliveries. For example, UPS, DHL, and FedEx have been using EA cargo bicycles for almost a decade. A typical EA cargo bicycle has three (a tricycle) or four wheels, a cargo compartment at the back, and a covered console area for the cyclist. They use either pedal power and/or energy from a battery pack. Figure 1 exemplifies two different cargo bike models.

There are some benefits that EA cargo bicycles have, that lend themselves well to the urban environment. Most significant is that EA cargo bicycles are not encumbered by the same parking and congestion constraints as trucks. For example, EA cargo bicycles can use bike lanes as their travel lane and park on sidewalks. This alternative may help delivery companies reduce their circling and idling time, and deliver items more efficiently. EA cargo bikes may help to make reliable deliveries and may be an effective tool for metropolitan areas to meet environmental targets.

It is important to acknowledge that there are alternative truck types such as electric/hydraulic, electric, propane, and ethanol trucks that are a part of the delivery system [4]. However, regardless of the fuel source, trucks face the same spatial constraints.

In this paper, four urban delivery scenarios completing the same route are modeled using a cost function comparison model, informed by a literature review, interviews, and data collection. Though the base case parameters reflect a case study route in Seattle, Washington, the methodology and findings are applicable to any city confronted by the growing complexities of urban logistics. The cost of using either EA cargo bicycles or urban delivery trucks are quantified and compared while also considering constraints associated with each mode.

Literature review

Cargo bicycles used for business purposes are a relatively new concept in Europe and the United States, and the need to understand its potential in the delivery ecosystem is critical to its more widespread adoption. Academic papers on the efficacy of cargo bikes in the U.S. and Europe have been reviewed and summarized in the text below and in Table 1.

The observed company typically assigns one driver to the same route. The route starts at the DC, which is about 3.5 miles (5.63 km) from all the delivery stops in downtown Seattle. Before deliveries began, the truck’s cargo compartment was at full capacity and held approximately 400 parcels. There are eight delivery stops on this route and they are located about 0.2 miles (0.3 km) from each other. Even though the stops are quite close to each other, it takes approximately 10 h to complete all of the deliveries due to tall office towers where the courier had to make deliveries on almost every floor.

The first few deliveries in the route are priority deliveries such as “Air Freight,” which must be delivered by 10:30 AM. Then, the driver must deliver “Ground Freight” and pick up outbound parcels at the end of the day. These components reveal the dynamism and considerations a courier company must make when successfully completing a route.

2.2 Assumptions and cost functions required to model four scenarios

Four delivery scenarios were modeled to compare the delivery route cost trade-offs between deliveries completed by a delivery truck or EA cargo bicycle. Each scenario manipulates each one of the following independent variables while keeping the other three variables constant.

Independent variables included:

  • distance between DC and neighborhood. larger distances impact overall delivery time and costs due to differences in vehicle speeds and driver fatigue (EA cargo bicycle).
  • number of stops. the more frequently a vehicle must stop, the more parcels and time spent sorting packages and looking for parking, which impacts overall delivery time and costs.
  • distance between stops. larger distances between stops influences the amount of time a vehicle spends in congestion and in transit, which impacts overall delivery time and costs. In dense urban areas, the delivery stops will be concentrated in a small area, so the distance between stops will be small.
  • total number of parcels per stop. each vehicle type has its own unique cargo capacity limitations. This influences the number of vehicles required to complete deliveries on any given route and impacts the costs associated with that delivery.

A change in one of these characteristics can influence which mode of transportation is the most cost effective for the last mile. Figure 3 is a diagram of the basic scenario and independent variables examined in this study.

The values given to the constant variables are derived from the research data collection process and are designed to represent a typical urban delivery. The values given for each constant variable are based on the information captured while shadowing the courier company and serves as a proxy for delivery characteristics common to dense cities.

The constant variables are:

  • Distance between DC and neighborhood (Lnb) = 3.5 Miles (5.63 km)
  • Number of stops (N) = 8
  • Distance between stops (Ls) = 0.2 miles (0.3 km)
  • Number of parcels per stop (n) = 50

The dependent variable is:


Assumptions about the operational characteristics of EA bikes and trucks were developed to ensure consistency while modeling each scenario. These assumptions have been informed by research and interviews, with the intent to produce a good value estimate for each vehicle type.

  • Wages. Truck drivers and EA cargo cyclists are assumed to be paid an average of 25.17 per hour, and includes hourly wage plus benefits [17].
  • Operational Costs. The cost to operate a delivery truck is 38.53 per hour [17]. The cost to operate an EA cargo bicycle is 9.20 per hour [17]. The following fees are included when calculating operational costs for each model: fuel, truck lease or purchase payments, repair and maintenance, truck insurance premiums, permits and licenses, tires, tolls, driver wages, and driver benefits.
  • Delivery Truck Vehicle Characteristics. The courier used a standard box truck, which is common for urban freight deliveries in the United States. The capacity, maximum load, and speed are summarized in Table 3.
  • Electric Assist Cargo Bicycle Characteristics – The design and dimensions of the cargo bicycle reflects cargo bicycles currently deployed by UPS in Portland, Oregon. It is equipped with brake lights and signal lights, and is therefore suited to use on a roadway, bike lane, or sidewalk. The capacity, maximum load, fuel economy, idling cost, fuel tank capacity and speed are summarized in Table 3.
  • Parcel Type. The average parcel size has been computed based on the maximum number of parcels that a transport mode can carry. 400 parcels for a delivery truck and 40 parcels for an EA cargo bicycle.
  • Speed. Truck speed is assumed to be 20 miles (32.2 km) per hour to reflect typical speed limits in dense cities. EA cargo bicycles are assumed to travel at 15 miles (24.1 km) per hour based on the average speed of a UPS Cargo Cruiser.
  • Route Time – For both a truck and EA cargo bicycle, route time is assumed to consist of the distance between the DC and the neighborhood, the distance between each stop, delivery fixed time (includes time looking for parking and parking), and delivery variable time (includes unloading and delivering parcels).

In scenario 4a, both transportation modes have eight stops in the route, a distance of 0.2 miles between each stop, and deliver 50 parcels per stop. In this scenario, the distance between the DC and delivery neighborhood is modeled from 0 to 10 miles (16.1 km). This shows that where the distance between DC and delivery neighborhood was greater than 2 miles (3.2 km), it was more cost efficient to use a delivery truck in comparison to EA cargo bikes. If the DC were to be located closer to the delivery neighborhood, at least less than 2 miles (3.2 km) away, it would be slightly more cost effective to use EA cargo bikes on the route observed.

In scenario 4b, both transportation modes have eight stops in the route, deliver 50 parcels per stop, and have a distance of 3.5 miles between the DC and neighborhood. In this scenario, the distance between delivery stops is modeled from 0 to 1 mile (1.6 km), assuming that anything beyond 1 mile (1.6 km) indicates deliveries are occurring in less dense urban areas, which is outside the scope of this study. Figure 4b shows that the cost lines for both vehicle types are almost constant. This could be because the distance between each stop is very small in urban areas due to more frequent delivery stops, and therefore has little impact on overall route costs. The truck is more cost efficient than EA cargo bicycles at any distance between stops in the observed delivery route.

In scenario 4c, both transportation modes have eight stops in the route, have a distance of 3.5 miles between the DC and neighborhood, and a distance of 0.2 miles per stop. In this scenario, the number of parcels was modeled from 1 to 70 parcels per stop. Adding 5 parcels per stop increases the number of EA cargo bicycle trips required due to capacity limitations. Additionally, each package increases handling time at the stop, slightly increasing total route costs. The truck cost line is also gradually increasing as the number of parcels increases, but has a smaller slope in comparison to an EA cargo bicycle. There is a significant increase in truck costs when the total number of packages exceeds the truck’s 400 parcel capacity. For the observed route, if there were more than 25 parcels per stop on average, it would be more cost efficient to use a truck instead of an EA cargo bicycle because otherwise, two or more EA cargo bicycles would be required to serve the same number of stops. If the number of parcels per stop is less than 20 parcels, it would be most cost efficient to use an EA cargo bicycle for the route.

In Fig. 4d, both transportation modes have a distance of 3.5 miles between the DC an neighborhood, a distance of 0.2 miles between each stop, and deliver 50 parcels per stop. In this scenario, the number of stops on the route was modeled from 0 to 25 stops. This graph shows that if the route has three or fewer stops on the route, the cost for EA cargo bicycles and trucks will be the same. If the route has more stops, it is more cost efficient to use a delivery truck instead of an EA cargo bicycle.

Based on modeling results, EA cargo bicycles are not the most cost-efficient vehicle type for the observed route. This is mainly due to the cargo capacity restrictions associated with the EA cargo bicycle. The average number of parcels per stop was 50 parcels, which surpasses the capacity of a single EA cargo bicycle which is 40 parcels. Therefore, at least 2 cargo bicycles would have to be allocated to each stop. It would take 10 EA cargo bicycles to replace a single delivery truck completing the observed route.

Findings from Fig. 4 indicate that a decrease from 50 parcels per stop to 10 parcels per stop would make an EA cargo bicycle more cost efficient than a delivery truck. Therefore, to further examine the feasibility of EA cargo bicycles, four scenarios were modeled using the same cost function, dependent variables, and assumptions, but one of the four independent variable values was changed. Instead of having 50 parcels per stop, this scenario will have 10 parcels per stop. The total number of parcels have changed from 400 parcels per route to 80 parcels per route. The results of this analysis can be seen in Fig. 5.

In scenario 5a, both transportation modes have eight stops in the route, a distance of 0.2 miles between each stop, and deliver ten parcels per stop. In this scenario, the distance between the DC and delivery neighborhood is modeled from 0 to 10 miles (16.1 km). The route cost is more cost effective using EA cargo bikes for up to 6 miles (9.7 km) between the DC and neighborhood. Beyond a 6-mile (9.7 km) distance, delivery trucks are more cost effective for this scenario.

In scenario 5b, both transportation modes have eight stops in the route, deliver ten parcels per stop, and have a distance of 3.5 miles between the DC and neighborhood. In this scenario, the distance between each of the eight delivery stops is examined from 0 to 1 mile (1.6 km). Regardless of the distance between each stop, EA cargo bikes are more cost effective for at least up to 1 mile (1.6 km) between stops.

The outcome of scenario 5c is exactly the same as scenario 4c because all of the values applied to the cost function are the same.

In scenario 5d, both transportation modes have a distance of 3.5 miles between the DC and neighborhood, 0.2 miles between each stop, and deliver ten parcels per stop. This scenario compares the cost of EA cargo bikes and a delivery truck when the number of stops on the route changes from 0 to 25 stops. According to this scenario, EA cargo bikes are more cost effective for at least 25 stops in the given route.

By changing the variable for the number of parcels delivered at each stop from 50 to 10, EA cargo bicycles are generally more cost effective than urban delivery trucks. It can be concluded that it is more cost efficient to deliver a smaller number of parcels to more stops by EA cargo bicycles.


The literature review and interviews indicate that EA cargo bicycles have piqued the interest of the private and public delivery sectors. Though there are limitations associated with EA cargo bicycles, delivery companies and universities are exploring improvements in the design and utility of EA cargo bicycles in urban areas.

The four scenarios modelled in this paper indicate that cargo bikes are more cost effective than delivery trucks for deliveries in close proximity to the distribution center (less than 2 miles for the observed delivery route with 50 parcels per stop and less than 6 miles for the hypothetical delivery route with 10 parcels per stop) and at which there is a high density of residential units and low delivery volumes.

Delivery trucks are more cost effective for greater distances from the DC and for large volume deliveries to one stop. For example, the observed route had a large volume of deliveries to one major office tower. Due to the truck’s large carrying capacity, the route could be completed by one truck, instead of deploying at least ten EA freight bicycles to complete the same delivery. over, by delivering greater number of packages per stop to office towers or any high-rise building with designated loading docks, trucks are able to legally park for longer periods of time. Therefore, EA cargo bikes may be well suited for congested cities with designated bike paths and truck parking challenges.

Cities and deliveries are increasingly becoming more populated, dense and dynamic, and it is important to acknowledge that though EA cargo bicycles have the potential to optimize specific nodes of the supply chain, they certainly are not a one size fits all solution for urban freight. For example, it was observed during data collection that “Air Freight” was the most time sensitive delivery type with a smaller number of “Air Freight” packages per stop. Thus, it is possible that EA cargo bicycles can be allocated to effectively deliver these types of packages. Having DCs closer to the city center may also support EA cargo bicycles as the optimal delivery transportation mode type for priority shipments such as one or two-hour deliveries.

EA cargo bicycles have some competitive advantages over delivery trucks in that cargo bicycles have more options for maneuvering through a city using the road, bike lane, sidewalks, and accessing pedestrian only areas, so a more detailed modeling of those aspects is warranted. The time spent looking for parking and the act of parking the bike itself is minimal.

Cargo bicycles may be a good substitute for trucks in cities that are considering policies that restrict the time and type of freight trucks driving through cities using congestion charges or simply banning them. Another possibility is to incentivize the use of cargo bicycles by including city support for bike storage in or near downtown. Cargo bicycles could also be a mode of transit included and discussed in city master plans.

The growing number of cargo bicycle companies in the United States and research efforts are certainly promising. The intent of this research is to contribute to the understanding of EA cargo bicycles and their potential to carry freight in urban environments. Seattle has been used as the case study, but the results can be applied to other urban cities in the United States.

You don’t need an SUV. You need a (much) cheaper electric cargo bike. Here’s why

America has an SUV problem. Or rather, just a big vehicle problem in general. The land of SUVs and pickup trucks has somehow been tricked into thinking you need a 4,000-pound vehicle to carry 20 pounds of groceries home from the supermarket.

But there’s a better way, and it’s called an electric cargo bike. It will save you money. It will save you time. It will make you more attractive. And it will make you happier. I all but guarantee it.

Now let’s be clear about something. When I say “You don’t need an SUV,” I’m speaking in general terms. It’s true – generally – for most people reading this article right now.

Sure, there are some of you that regularly transport seven people across vast distances on highway and interstates. But most of us don’t. It’s a simple numbers game. Most people in the US live in cities and urban centers. And that’s why you don’t need a massive SUV.

And even for those that do “need” an SUV for certain specific tasks, you don’t need it most of the time. I’d bet dollars to donuts that most people reading this right now who own an SUV do most of their trips in it with just one or two passengers.

For those that really need a car, you probably only need a small hatchback or sedan. But I’m going to make the case for why you probably don’t even need that, or at least not for most of your trips. Especially when you consider just how far electric cargo bikes have come.

Twenty years ago, a cargo bike was a nifty invention and fun to look at, but they cost a fortune and lord help you if you ever had to pedal one up a hill.

But electric bikes have come to the rescue. Electric motors now allow e-bike builders to make cargo bikes that are easier to pedal up hills (or that don’t require any pedaling at all in the case of throttle-enabled electric cargo bikes). are also quickly dropping, meaning you can get a great cargo e-bike for a song. Instead of buying an expensive second car, you can probably get away with one car and one cargo e-bike.

There are two main styles of cargo e-bikes: front-loaders and longtails. (Technically there are also cargo e-trikes as well, but we’ll leave three-wheelers for another discussion soon.)

Front-loaders have a big cargo area in the front and are generally more expensive due to the funky frame and complicated steering linkage that front loaders require.

knox, cargo, e-trike, bike, tricycle

Longtails look more like a normal bike but have loooooong rear ends that are stretched to give more rack and seat space behind the rider.

knox, cargo, e-trike, bike, tricycle

Front-loaders are a bit more advanced and can take more time to get acclimated to, as the rider is much farther from the front wheel than they’re probably used to. If you’re new to cargo bikes, a longtail is probably a better place to start.

Both offer great cargo space, they just do it differently.

Can cargo e-bikes actually replace SUVs?

Okay, so cargo e-bikes sound neat and all. But c’mon, can they really replace cars and trucks?

Yes, for most people they can. And you might balk at that, but there’s a reason why I’m confidently correct here.

It’s true because most people don’t use their SUVs to explore to the Amazon. They use them to go buy the stuff they can’t find on Amazon.

Picking up groceries. Dropping off a kid or two at school. Driving to work. These are all normal, everyday tasks that for some reason people think requires heavy machinery. Which is as ridiculous as it is depressing. If you live in a city and you drive a massive car, then you’re probably in the wrong. Unless you’ve got several dozen 2×4’s hanging out the back of that truck or the entire starting lineup from little Jimmy’s T-ball team in your SUV, then you don’t need that massive vehicle.

I’ve actually used cargo e-bikes to carry construction material before, including bags of cement and dimensional lumber. It’s just not that hard.

And I’ve carried multiple passengers on them as well. Three people on a cargo e-bike is pretty standard, though it helps when one or two of those extra souls are also children.

A reddit commenter in a walkable cities advocacy group recently put it best. As the redditor explained, “Are there viable bikes that can replace the true power and utility of an SUV? Not even close. Are there bikes that can replace what 99% of drivers use their SUVs for 99% of the time? Absolutely.”

Now again, there are going to be those people who say, “But I need my truck, I use it for XYZ that a bike can’t do!”

And I get it. There are some big jobs out there. My sister runs a furniture refinishing business and regularly hauls dressers, desks, and other big things around town.

But then again, maybe you’re just still stuck in that “I need a car to do this” mentality. Did you know there are actually moving companies that work entirely by bicycle? They’ll move your apartment without getting trucks involved.

When there’s a will (and a cargo bike), there’s a way.

Cargo e-bikes save money

Not only can cargo e-bikes do most of what most people use their SUVs and trucks for, but they do it cheaper.

The hundreds of dollars per month that your truck or SUV burns in gasoline would equate to probably less than a dollar of electricity to power an electric cargo bike. If you do some serious mileage then you might be looking at as much as two dollars of electricity per month.

And don’t forget the hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of dollars you’ll save each month on parking, insurance, car payments, maintenance, and all the other costs associated with car ownership.

Even the purchase price is usually 10x less. If you go nuts with the best electric cargo bikes out there from the highest dollar manufacturers, you could be looking at expensive 8,000 e-bikes. But if you are more reasonable, there are great options in the 4,000 range and still very good options in the sub-2,000 range.

Heck, you can even get close to 1,000 if you really try. Take for example the 999 Lectric XP 3.0. It’s not a cargo e-bike (but rather a fat-tire folding e-bike), though it turns into a cargo bike when you add the 110 cargo package. Or add the 74 passenger package to easily carry a second adult rider on the bike.

Other affordable e-bikes like the Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 2 (or RadRunner Plus shown in the video above) are purpose-built for carrying passengers and offer a comfortable way to bring a friend or loved one on back.

You can even fit two riders on the back of a RadRunner as long as they’re fairly small.

Why drive to dinner in a massive car when you and your wife could zip there on an e-bike built for two? Add a little excitement and adventure into date night!

Look, just think about it

Let’s get real: Most people could do most of their daily travel needs in a city on an e-bike. But because of the world we live in, that doesn’t mean that a car can be totally replaced all the time.

For some people, that means not owning a car and occasionally using a car sharing service for the once-in-a-while Ikea trip or other car-related journey. My wife and I did that for years. If we needed a car for a couple hours here and there, we rented a car for a couple hours. It was waiting on the street corner and that’s where we left it when we were done. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Top comment by nateh

That is quite a statement. In my state the vast majority live in suburban areas where bikes are not only not practical but often outright dangerous. Maybe if there was a separate infrastructure for bikes it would be ok but there are a lot of 45 mph roads with no bike lanes.

For others that still use a car somewhat frequently, perhaps that means having one family car but getting an e-bike instead of a second car. And of course, that also means trying to use the e-bike for as many trips as possible.

If you live at the end of a 3-mile private driveway that connects to a 70 mph six-lane highway, then an e-bike probably can’t be your only vehicle. But you also don’t exist because that’s a silly made-up scenario that the anti-anti-car crowd tends to think is all too common.

In reality, of course there are people that an e-bike won’t work for and of course there are still some cases where a big vehicle may be necessary. But those people and those cases are much fewer and farther between than most will realize. Sometimes it just takes looking at the problem from another angle.

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