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Zero emissions, zero traffic: How an EV company is making delivery sustainable

URB-E and PenguinPickUp’s solution could be blueprint for sustainable logistics

URB-E's compact delivery model is now operating out of PenguinPickUp's locations in Toronto (Photo: URB-E)

For all the triumphs and successes that the logistics field has seen this year, there’s one area where it needs to make up some ground: sustainability. Freight and other modes of logistics transportation are a big driver of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for over half of the United States’ total nitrogen oxide emissions and nearly a third of volatile organic compounds emissions.

LA-based compact container delivery company URB-E is looking to Canada to change that. The company, which runs its own network of small electric vehicles and collapsible containers, entered into a partnership on Thursday with Canada-wide delivery service PenguinPickUp to offer a no-emissions, no-traffic delivery solution.

The partnership will provide a new service, PenguinPickup2U, which will combine URB-E’s fleet with PenguinPickUp’s network of delivery locations to offer energy-saving and congestion-alleviating deliveries from multiple retailers at once, for a flat rate of $5. The pilot program is slated to run for six months in downtown Toronto, with the goals of decreasing carbon emissions by 95% and reducing the area’s traffic footprint sixfold.

“Canada is leading the way in adopting sustainable, city-friendly delivery solutions to replace gas-powered vans and trucks, and PenguinPickUp embraces this responsible mindset,” said Charles Jolley, CEO of URB-E. “PenguinPickUp is already one of the most innovative delivery providers with their store locations close to where people live. We think they’re the perfect partner to introduce low-emission, safe and friendly URB-E delivery vehicles to the Canadian market.”

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Founded in 2014, PenguinPickUp has centered itself around making last-mile deliveries for online purchases easier. From its six Toronto locations, the company will deploy URB-E’s sustainable delivery solution within a nearly 2-mile radius. The companies selected these locations due to their proximity to the city’s network of dedicated bike lanes.

“As online deliveries continue to increase, we need to seriously consider our social responsibility to our customers and communities. We hope to provide a safer and cleaner alternative for everyone involved in our business,” said Patrick Jobidon, president of PenguinPickUp.”

Doing so will be made simpler with URB-E’s electric vehicles and compact containers. Designed by a former Porsche engineer, the vehicles are small enough to roll on and off a truck yet can still hold 800 pounds of cargo. They are already operating in large markets like New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle. URB-E riders had to undergo safety training and pass a test before hitting the road, and the vehicle’s battery storage needed to pass several safety and fire tests prior to deployment.

Though URB-E and PenguinPickUp are some of the first companies to roll out a highly sustainable delivery solution in major cities, they aren’t the only ones. Contrary to experts’ original projection, the pandemic hasn’t satisfied the logistics industry’s appetite for sustainable solutions. In fact, it’s seemingly insatiable: Of 2,400 supply chain professionals surveyed in late 2020, 80% said they had increased or maintained their commitments to supply chain sustainability.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.