Test Riding to Reduce Carbon Emissions Along The Supply Chain

When it comes to sustainability, consumer demand doesn’t always align with reality. Consumers want their orders to arrive within days, but with minimal environmental impact. Finding ways to incorporate nimble, zero-carbon emission vehicles throughout the supply chain is often the first step in meeting both of these expectations.

One solution is electric cargo bikes (ebikes) or electric trikes (etrikes). The motor-assisted, battery-powered bikes have more capacity and range than a standard bicycle. They also have better maneuverability compared to trucks, forklifts, golf carts, and other utility vehicles due to their smaller size, route flexibility, and ease of parking.

UPS, DHL, and Sainsbury’s currently used trikes for these reasons. The companies began by conducting pilot trials before rolling out larger fleets.

Operations of all sizes with various challenges can conduct similar pilots with little risk and minimal expense. Quality cargo ebikes can be purchased for $1,600, and cargo etrikes for less than $6,000.

To begin an ebike or etrike trial, first identify application opportunities along the supply chain, look into legislation, and understand a few specifications.


  • Manufacturing Facilities, Warehouses, Distribution and Fulfillment Centers – Ebikes and etrikes are small, nimble, and can haul hundreds of pounds of equipment, tools, product, and people. This makes it easier and faster to coordinate operations, arrange inventory, prepare and complete orders, and more within, or to and from, facilities.
  • Urban and Small Deliveries – Congestion, parking availability, and pollution concerns all conspire to make last mile logistics the greatest hurdle in many businesses’ supply chains. Ebikes and etrikes can keep pace in the arms race that speed-to-market has become.
  • Company Campus – Ebikes can help employees quickly travel between buildings or run errands off-site without burning fossil fuels or breaking a sweat.

Beyond environmental benefits, ebikes are a fun and healthy transportation option that can also improve productivity and morale.


Ebike laws vary by state and country, so check the legislation in regions of operation before conducting a trial.

The majority of states fully or partially enact a model legislation that regulates and defines three classes of ebikes. Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes, which reach a maximum speed of 20 mph through pedal-assist and/or throttle, are the most common and have the same access as a standard bicycle. Class 3 ebikes, which reach a maximum speed of 28 mph through pedalling only, are still allowed on roads, but have some shared-path and sidewalk restrictions.

Other states regulate ebikes as a moped or motor vehicle. The ebikes are still allowed, but require licensing and registration.


Electric cargo bikes look like standard bicycles, but feature a unique frame or accessories that can accommodate up to 350 pounds of packages, equipment, and tools, or extra passengers. Look for ebikes that use a 750W motor and 48V 14Ah Lithium-Ion battery that can reach 25-45+ miles per charge.

Electric cargo trikes have three wheels and the ability to haul up to 750 pounds of cargo, utilizing flat bed, truck bed, and cargo box frame configurations. The cargo etrike needs a powerful 52.5Ah battery to reach 40-80+ miles per charge and last for a full day’s work.

Ebikes and etrikes can be a more sustainable and affordable transportation option to either complement or replace existing vehicles. To compare over a five year period, a traditional cargo van will cost approximately $64,000 to own, fuel and operate, and emit an average of 55-65 tons of emissions. In contrast, an ebike costs less than $2,000 and an etrike less than $6,000, require modest yearly investments in electricity and maintenance, and produce zero carbon emissions.

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