citkar E-Cargo Bike: IoT Trackers Optimize Last Mile

19.10.2021 by Pauline Batzer
Hermes employee delivers packages with a Loadster from citkar

citkar aims to revolutionize last-mile delivery with low-emission, spacious, weatherproof e-cargo bikes. Green IoT technology from Deutsche Telekom ensures reliability.

Most city centers are anything but an automobile paradise. Narrow, congested streets make getting around especially difficult for logistics and shipping companies. Their vans and trucks often find them hard to maneuver in, and while they stand and wait in a traffic jam or with a red traffic light ahead they also emit unnecessarily large amounts of CO2. That is bad news for the climate and, as fuel prices rise, for the balance sheet. If the recipient has to wait longer than scheduled for the delivery, customer satisfaction takes a hit too. Cargo bikes and e-bikes partly solve these problems but for other reasons are not always suitable because, for example, they have limited storage space, are not weatherproof, or are prone to defects.

The Berlin-based startup citkar took up the challenge to find a solution to these problems. After extensive development it came up with the Loadster, an e-cargo bike that has many advantages over conventional cargo bikes and e-bikes. The driver’s seat is roofed over and weatherproof and the transport box can carry a payload of up to 235 kg. Its powerful electric motor enables drivers to take heavy loads to their destination with ease. There is no chain to slip off its cogwheel; the pedals merely activate the motor. In appearance and equipment the Loadster resembles a car rather than a two-wheeler, but as it is officially a bicycle its user does not need a driver’s license and can even use cycle tracks, which is a definite advantage in last-mile deliveries to city-center customers. Around 100 Loadsters are currently in use by delivery and waste disposal services. The 2022 target is 1,000 in locations across Europe.

Smart Maintenance Thanks to the Internet of Things

To maximize the e-cargo bike’s reliability, citkar was on the lookout for a way to digitize it. For this task Deutsche Telekom provided the right system based on the Internet of Things (IoT). A key citkar requirement was predictive maintenance. Loadster defects must not first come to light when the vehicle suddenly breaks down. Instead, the time for maintenance should be individually and reliably predictable. In addition, the startup wanted to record maintenance work centrally and digitally on the Internet in order to improve quality assurance.

Initially, the quest for a suitable system was a tough assignment. The solutions were frequently designed for e-bikes and mainly to protect them from theft or to activate them for bike-sharing services. Then Deutsche Telekom launched Drive & Track. Loadsters are equipped with IoT trackers that collect data about mileage covered, speed etc. and send it via the cellular network to the Internet of Things and the Cloud. The connected Fleet Complete system and its online portal enable citkar to access and manage all data. The combined solution is the basis for a more cost-effective, less resource-hungry and altogether eco-friendlier last mile.

Reduce CO2-Footprint Intelligently  

The smart sensors and the software solution enable citkar to maintain a constant overview of the performance of its e-cargo bikes. In addition, the system maintains a digital service record for each cargo bike. Dealers who carry out repairs or maintenance work on the e-cargo bikes record all the details digitally. As a result citkar can, for example, analyze the reasons for maintenance and defects and, if required, replace defect-prone parts. The outcome is optimized quality assurance and a sustainable improvement in the reliability and operational readiness of its Loadsters. citkar and Deutsche Telekom have thereby solved one of the greatest problems with cargo bikes: their high failure rate. That is an important advantage for delivery services and other transportation and logistics enterprises that rely on smooth and trouble-free processes and optimal time management.

To further increase customer satisfaction citkar issues weekly reports. They contain details of not only the mileage that Loadsters cover but also their CO2 emissions, which compared with those of cars, including EVs, are remarkably low (see chart). An automobile with a combustion engine emits around 2.93 tonnes of CO2 over a distance of 10,000 kilometers. EVs are easier on the environment with 0.67 tonnes but nowhere near the Loadster’s 0.03 tonnes. To make these figures clearer, about 293 trees would be required to offset the conventional automobile’s output of greenhouse gases, 67 for that of an EV and just three trees for that of a citkar e-cargo bike.

CO2 emissions of car, e-car and loadster in comparison

Sustainability by Means of Digitization

Green logistics is not a buzzword; it is an indispensable development to stem the tide of climate change and ease the burden on the environment. According to the International Energy Agency the transportation sector was in 2018 after the electricity and energy sector the world’s second-largest producer of greenhouse gases. So what measures can the industry undertake to boost its sustainability? Digitization is one approach toward eco-friendlier logistics. Numerous solutions based on the Internet of Things can reduce CO2 emissions. They include the following:

  • IoT trackers to make dynamic route planning possible and thereby reduce fuel consumption;
  • Sensors that facilitate predictive maintenance and thereby prolong the useful life of machines and make more efficient use of resources;
  • E-charging solutions to ensure green intralogistics and eco-friendly last.-mile delivery.

Further information about this and other sustainable uses of IoT in our webinar.


 

More Climate Protection, Lower Costs

Sustainability is in any case the smart, eco-friendly cargo bike’s motto. Customers are notified automatically ahead of scheduled or unscheduled maintenance dates. If a Loadster travels at high speeds especially often the system will schedule an earlier service date. Inadvertently forgotten dates area thing of the past and sudden outages are much less frequent.

Customer feedback about the new system has been extremely positive, not least because the Loadster combines green logistics and a substantial cost savings potential. At today‘s high fuel prices a car costs around EUR 1,120 a year to run, assuming a mileage of 10,000 km. EVs perform better but still cost EUR 410, whereas citkar’s smart e-cargo bike makes do with a mere EUR 70 or so.

Resource Efficiency in Last-Mile Delivery

A further advantage is that the solution is scalable and thus future-proof. The Loadster will soon be able to use the automobile industry’s CAN Bus interface to read and record even more detailed motor and electronic data. As the e-cargo bike is already equipped with trackers citkar customers can easily make use of additional Fleet Complete services such as dynamic route planning. So drivers will always be able to take the fastest route to their destination because the solution analyzes traffic and suggests alternative routes as required. For one, that can further improve the efficiency of last-mile delivery. For another, the Loadster’s CO2 footprint can be further reduced because drivers no longer need to make unnecessarily long detours.

What Deutsche Telekom’s Internet of Things technology combined with the software solution and, of course, the citkar Loadster can achieve was demonstrated during the International Cargobike Race in Berlin on June 26 and 27, 2021. In a sporting endurance test the trackers and the software provided non-stop information about the route and the condition of vehicles. With the race and the Loadsters already in use around Europe citkar demonstrates not only what last-mile delivery but also what urban traffic in general could look like in the future: practical, green, reliable – a win-win situation for companies, people and the environment.


 

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Pauline Batzer
Pauline Batzer

Project Manager IoT

Since 2015, Pauline has been passionate about the variety of the IoT world. She has gained a lot of experience with the Internet of Things from different perspectives by working with customers, partners, and start-up companies. For the Telekom IoT blog she writes about technological trends, products, and innovations in the Internet of Things which are implemented in different industries.