9. July 2019 | Sustainability

A pioneering city logistics project: DPD Germany uses a swap body as a micro-depot in Konstanz

DPD Germay is applying a new form of city logistics in the city of Konstanz at Lake Constance. In close cooperation with the local council the international parcel and express service provider has rented a parking area on the centrally located Döbele car park. Since April deliveries have been made from there to the city centre of Konstanz by cargo bike. A major innovation has now been added in the form of a container (a so-called 'swap body'), which serves as a local micro-depot. Such a micro-depot is a prerequisite for delivery by cargo bike since - unlike conventional vans – the bikes have to be stationed directly in the delivery area. The swap body in Konstanz is therefore not only an overnight storage location for the cargo bikes used locally, but also a transshipment point for parcels. These are delivered to the micro-depot in the morning and then transported to their consignees by electrically powered bikes.

This is the first project of its kind in which DPD Germany has converted a swap body in a public area into a micro-depot. The container positioned on the Döbele car park offers space for a large number of parcels and can also be supplied with fresh shipments two or three times a day. This enables the delivery personnel to perform several tours in succession. In the initial phase, only one tour per cargo bike is planned. In addition, the cargo bikes can be stored in the swap body after the deliveries have been made. At present the responsible depot in Villingen-Schwenningen is still working with exchangeable batteries, which are delivered to the micro-depot together with the parcels in the morning. As a next step the container will be equipped with a solar panel to charge the bikes directly on site. This will provide a self-sufficient power supply.

Cargo bikes are ideal for delivery areas in which we supply a large number of private consignees.

Gerd Seber, Group Manager City Logistics & Sustainability at DPD Germany

The fact that the innovative project has been implemented in Konstanz in particular is mainly due to local conditions. The city centre has narrow streets that are difficult for conventional delivery vans to access. At the same time the parcel structure is highly suitable for delivery with electrically powered bikes. "Cargo bikes are ideal for delivery areas in which we supply a large number of private consignees," explains Gerd Seber, Group Manager City Logistics & Sustainability at DPD Germany. In this case the delivery tours feature many stops where only a single parcel is delivered. Since a cargo bike is much easier to park in inner city areas, making deliveries by this method is very efficient. "At the same time this system has a further positive effect for us. In Konstanz delivery vans are no longer permitted to enter the city centre after 10 a.m. Thanks to the cargo bikes, this restriction is no longer a problem for us.“

The implementation of the project was made possible not least thanks to the cooperation of the local authorities. "We're delighted that the city of Konstanz has supported us in this project," says Seber. At the same time he hopes that the project will also act as a model for other municipalities. "Centrally located swap bodies are an excellent way of setting up micro-depots that are as simple as they are economical. So far, however, cities have been very hesitant in making the necessary spaces available. We therefore appeal to the municipalities to follow the example of Konstanz and make alternative delivery models possible."

City logistics: this is how DPD Germany is re-thinking parcel delivery operations

Throughout Germany DPD Germany is testing a number of approaches to the challenge of making parcel delivery in cities more efficient and with lower emissions. In Hamburg, for example, the international parcel and express service provider is testing fully electric VW e-Crafter vans. Smaller models, including the TRIPL electric scooter, are also in use there. In addition DPD Germany is already using cargo bikes in various cities - for example in Nuremberg, Berlin and Heilbronn. Another promising flagship project is "KoMoDo" in Berlin. After a one-year test phase sponsored by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Germany's five biggest parcel service providers are going to continue their operations in a logistics area which they can jointly use as a micro-depot. Deliveries are then made from this base by cargo bike. Shipments are delivered to the DPD Germany micro-depot from the parcel distribution centre by a fully electric VW eCrafter, which means that deliveries in the area are completely free from emissions.