Learn how Brighton and Hove City Council is pioneering electric cargo bikes for clean and efficient city-centre deliveries. This scheme forms part of 50 climate actions for councils under Action 26, to require an electric vehicle or bike to be used for deliveries to the council and encourage greener deliveries across the area by setting up an area-wide distribution centre.

23 May 2022

How is Action 26 tackling the climate crisis?

Electric cargo bikes offer clean and efficient deliveries – replacing polluting vans – and are especially suited to towns and city centres. Councils can pioneer their use on urban streets and help encourage local businesses to make the switch.

Electric cargo bikes contribute towards lower emissions and improved air quality. Electric cargo bikes may have two, three or four wheels but all models feature a large container for transporting goods and equipment.

Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) has bought 12 bikes, some of which can carry loads of up to 150kg in weight. These are used by council teams and small businesses in the city.

BHCC’s post room, cemetery team, community engagement team and cycle instructors use electric cargo bikes. A further five have been given to sustainable logistics company Zedify to support business deliveries across Brighton & Hove. Five other electric cargo bikes were awarded to local businesses. The aim of this project is to build a strong business case to demonstrate that electric cargo bikes can largely replace diesel vans for urban deliveries and in turn to encourage local businesses to adopt electric cargo bikes.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s eCargo Bike Accelerator Programme aims to boost the uptake of electric cargo bikes among small businesses. The scheme offers a £125 subsidy to local businesses that switch from polluting vehicles to using Zedify’s electric cargo bike courier service. Project support also includes impartial advice on the best electric cargo bike to suit different budgets and business needs, free rider training and the promotion of businesses on the eCargo Bike Accelerator project webpage.

What impact has the project had?

Council teams have been impressed by the bikes. For example, the cemetery team reports that they make carrying tools and equipment much easier, as they have an open top box and are also far quieter than diesel vans.

The impact has however gone beyond the council’s own use of the bikes. For example, providing an electric cargo bike to Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-op is helping vulnerable community residents. The co-op can survey homes and install energy-saving measures in just one client visit, with the bike’s increased storage capacity compared to the regular pedal bikes used by the organisation beforehand. This allows the co-op to support twice as many households through their fuel poverty alleviation programme and reduce delays that vulnerable residents face in making their cold homes more comfortable.

The project has also had a significant impact on local businesses. Brighton Gin received an e-cargo bike in 2020 and has now recorded over 2200 miles that previously would have been made by their diesel vehicles.

What made this work?

This project directly aligns with the council's strategic priorities, which include becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and building towards a liveable city centre. It is therefore helping to meet the recommendations of Brighton & Hove’s climate assembly in 2020.

Partnerships

Multiple external partnerships are a key aspect that made this project work. The council first worked with Energy Savings Trust to gain knowledge of the electric cargo bike sector and to support its application for grant funding.

The council also worked closely with MP Smarter Travel, a London based sustainable travel consultancy that supported the local authority’s promotion and engagement with businesses. This included helping to identify companies that might be interested in e-cargo bikes, determining their eligibility for the subsidy scheme and guiding them in buying their own bike.

The Living Coast were also a key partner, sponsoring an electric cargo bike expo. The event, which took place on Car Free Day (22 September 2021), gave businesses, suppliers and the public the chance to test-ride different models and learn more about the eCargo Bike Accelerator Project.

Raising awareness of benefits

Success in getting local businesses to adopt electric cargo bikes has been, in part, due to the council raising awareness and engaging companies directly on the financial case and other benefits.

The benefits include cheaper purchasing and operating costs compared with cars and vans, easier and more convenient parking and loading in congested areas, zero emissions and access to car-free areas and a positive image for the business.

What resources were needed?

The local authority was awarded about £80,000 from the Department for Transport’s £1.2m e-Cargo Bike Grant Fund which allowed for the purchase of 12 electric cargo bikes and a trailer. The council included some of its own funds for the purchasing of extra equipment and resources, as well as to support the eCargo Bike Accelerator Project.

The price of individual bikes varies depending on model and type, with new bikes typically costing between £2,000 and £4,000.

Lessons from Brighton and Hove

Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic have impacted delivery and supply chains. This has made it difficult for Brighton & Hove City Council to obtain certain types of electric cargo bike. However, manufacturers are beginning to adapt to these barriers and are starting to build good stock levels of varying models so this should start to get easier for other councils.

Another important issue has been ensuring that council teams and local businesses are getting daily use out of the bikes to ensure maximum benefits. It is essential to give council staff and business owners training to use electric cargo bikes confidently to ensure the electric cargo bike is used enough, while also ensuring that they have the right type of bike to suit their needs and the demands of local geography.

“It’s been great to see the popularity of eCargo bikes grow in Brighton & Hove as more businesses tap into their potential. We need to do more to support local companies to make the switch away from petrol and diesel vehicles and our eCargo Bike Accelerator Project is doing just that. We’re doing everything we can to give local businesses the tools and infrastructure they need to make sustainable transport decisions. Finding emissions-free ways to move goods and services around the city is vital if we’re to tackle the climate crisis and reach our goal of carbon neutrality by 2030”.

Amy Heley, Co-Chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee.

Friends of the Earth view

Cutting emissions from their own transport operations is a must for all councils including all deliveries. It’s great to see Brighton council pioneering the use of e-cargo bikes and influencing local businesses to do the same.

Councils must also tackle emissions beyond their own operations using their powers and influence to tackle emissions in the wider area – including investing in public transport, walking and cycling, and discouraging car use (Actions 21 and 23 of the Climate Action Plan).

Friends of the Earth is showcasing specific examples of good practice in tackling climate change, but that doesn’t mean we endorse everything that a council is doing.   

This case study was produced by Ashden  and Friends of the Earth.

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