Last-mile and container-based delivery firm Urb-E launched service in Santa Monica, California, Thursday as it continues to expand its zero-emission delivery service.
Ten Urb-E electric bikes and cargo containers are being used in Santa Monica Zero Emission Delivery Zone (ZEDZ) lanes on Santa Monica and Colorado boulevards. The plan is to more than double the current fleet, which will deliver meal kits, e-commerce orders, groceries and subscription boxes on a daily basis.
“Santa Monicans have had enough of delivery trucks snarling up their traffic, taking up parking spots and pumping noxious gasses into their environment. Urb-E’s new e-cargo vehicles can carry as much as a single truck while being more traffic and parking efficient,” said Charles Jolley, CEO of Urb-E. “By using electric vehicles and containers, we’re able to deliver more packages each day while keeping Santa Monica running more smoothly and cleanly.”
The Santa Monica program is administered by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).
“Between the sophistication of [Urb-E’s] vehicles and drivers, … the technology they have on the bikes and how they are deploying [them], I think they are going to integrate quickly and easily,” Mark Petersen, CEO of LACI, told Modern Shipper.
Urb-E electric bike has plenty of power
The Urb-E vehicle features an electric bike with a small trailer that carries containers with multiple adjustable shelves inside. Each vehicle can carry up to 800 pounds. The containers roll on and off the trailer quickly, allowing bike couriers to remain in motion as containers can be preloaded.
LACI and the city of Santa Monica launched ZEDZ in 2021. The zone encompasses 1 square mile roughly bound by Wilshire Boulevard on the north, Lincoln Boulevard on the east, Dewey Street (city boundary) on the south and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The zone covers ZIP codes 90401, 90405 and 90403 and is home to 15,850 residents and two primary commercial districts — downtown Santa Monica (including Third Street Promenade) and Main Street — that together employ roughly 28,900 workers in a wide range of industries.
California has been pushing ahead with zero-emissions vehicle goals, calling for zero-emissions zones covering people and goods movement by 2030, and Los Angeles is requiring 100% of urban delivery vehicles to be zero emission by 2035.
ZEDZ is a pilot program and a voluntary one at that, but it has the support of many major companies, including Ikea, Axlehire, Guayaki, Alsco Uniforms, Foodcycle, Shopify and Reef Technology. The firms will voluntarily deploy and test zero-emission modes for last-mile delivery in Santa Monica’s downtown, Main Street and Ocean Park neighborhoods, LACI said. Tech providers include LACI startups Automotus, Maxwell Vehicles, Circuit and FreeWire as well as collaborations with Coco, Kiwibot, Tortoise, Rollo, Blue Systems, Fluid Truck, Motiv Power Systems, Nissan, Roush CleanTech and Lighting eMotors.
ZEDZ has widespread community support
Petersen said ZEDZ was born out of LACI’s Transportation Electrification Partnership, which brings together government officials, local leaders and industry to accelerate transportation electrification and zero-emissions goods movement in advance of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which Los Angeles will host.
Initially set to last one year, LACI extended the pilot.
“We know the model works, so we are talking to city staff about what you can do to enforce the curbs to make sure the electric vehicles are using those dedicated loading and unloading zones,” Petersen said.
Santa Monica was the first community in the country to allow scooters on city streets, and it continues to lead the effort to decarbonize transportation. Petersen said LACI has set a goal of getting 60% of vehicles and 40% of drayage trucks electric by 2028.
The Santa Monica pilot has gone well enough that LACI is involved in launching additional programs with Department of Energy support in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh pilot, announced last month, will feature 20 smart loading zones located within the Central Business District, Lawrenceville, Central Oakland, Bloomfield and South Side Flats. These zones will enable faster pickups and drop-offs and reduce double parking and fuel emissions from idling vehicles, technology company Automotus said. Automotus has provided a $10,000 grant for the project. Its technology has been used in the zero-emissions delivery pilots in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Urb-E’s New York success
Urb-E announced in January that it was expanding to California. The company launched in New York with the help of delivery service AxleHire. In New York, AxleHire and Urb-E launched a microcontainer delivery system to deliver goods from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Urb-E program in Manhattan proved that the delivery network saved on drive time and avoided parking tickets, resulting in a 6x reduction in traffic and a model that is 3x cheaper than electric vehicle delivery vans, the companies said.
In September 2021, the companies announced an expansion of their New York pilot. Long Beach, California, is next and Jolley said he hopes Urb-E will be operating in five cities by the end of this year. In Manhattan, Urb-E is delivering 300,000 packages a month with about 70 units on the road.
Petersen said that California is proving a hotbed of activity for zero-emission pilot projects.
“I think on zero emissions goods movement, LA is the place you are seeing innovation happen and with good reason,” he said. “Goods movement is the single biggest [producer] of emissions in the region. This is really the place to come innovate and we welcome people to come to us with their ideas … as we move to a zero-emissions transportation future.”
LACI periodically opens up a submission process for projects, but Petersen said companies that may be interested in working with it on a project can reach out to the organization.