March 14, 2023
Blog/ Cargo bike vs drone deliveries - who wins?
Both cargo bike and drone parcel deliveries have become increasingly popular options for modern businesses wishing to make the most efficient use of their time and resources. But which one is the better choice for the all-important last mile?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.
Sustainable Cargo Bike Deliveries
Cargo bikes provide a great way to transport goods of all sizes: they have multiple compartments, can be loaded easily and quickly, and are much more eco-friendly than using a car or van. The potential load weight is also surprisingly high, with cargo trikes, the backbone of the Zedify fleet, able to carry up to 250kg of goods.
Pedal-power can be a cost-effective option, too. With no specialised equipment required to run – just electricity – cargo bikes can be used for short and long trips alike. The typical range for a Zedify bike is 50km.
On first look, it may appear that cargo bikes are limited in speed, capacity, and range – and these things can be true. But when you consider the use-case, the specific conditions for logistics in urban settings, it becomes clear that these qualities aren’t really limitations for urban deliveries.
On the speed point: most cargo bikes operate in restricted zones, set at 20mph or 30mph. Other vehicles won’t be zooming past – even if their horse power would allow them to! Cargo bikes are also very easy to manoeuvre around traffic and low emission zones (LEZ), making them a strong competitor for any vehicles in the sky.
In terms of capacity: alternative last mile courier vehicle innovations, including drones, are typically unable to hold the same weight of goods as cargo bikes. More traditional delivery vehicles such as vans are typically found to be around 1/3 full and carrying a similar load to a full cargo bike. So, although vans could in theory drive faster and carry more than a cargo bike, they can’t actually make use of that extra capacity because of the restrictions they face in city centres.
Pros & Cons of Drone Deliveries
Drones provide a faster way of delivering parcels, as they don’t require a driver and won’t be getting stuck in traffic jams (at least not those on terra firma, anyway!)
Able to quickly navigate and easily fit through tight spaces, drones are also able to deliver to remote locations – something that cargo bikes are not yet able to do sustainably and efficiently, even though their reach is a solid 50km.
The downside is that drones are extremely expensive to purchase and maintain, and they also pose potential serious safety risks if not used properly. We just haven’t got to a position where they can be affordably and safely utilised, and this seems a long way off. Moreover, drones bring up a whole host of GDPR problems (data protection lawyers, we see you). It will take a while to convince the general public that an unusual object with a camera on, sometimes flying dangerously close to their powerlines or windows, is nothing to be worried about.
There’s also the human element. Whilst it’s preferable to wait a few minutes, answer the door in your jammies and know that ‘the coast is clear’ for any delivery-driver small talk, sometimes, it’s nice to have your parcel carefully handed to you by a real-life human being, with care and attention. Can the personless drones replicate this one-to-one experience? It remains to be seen.
So Which is Better, The Drone or The Cargo Bike?
Overall, both cargo bikes and drones can be great options for parcel deliveries, depending on the specific use-case in question. Cargo bikes are a more cost-effective and eco-friendly option, while drones are able to travel at faster speeds and can reach remote locations.
But – only one option is truly viable right now when it comes to urban logistics. And (well we would say this, wouldn’t we), that is the trusty cargo bike.
The infrastructure for an environmentally sound, green courier service is there and ready for the taking, and businesses that have utilised cargo bike deliveries have reaped the rewards for their customers and the wider environment.
Whichever option businesses choose to invest in in the near future, it’ll be imperative to keep safety, reliability and cost in mind.
Ready to innovate your deliveries? Book a call with our Partnerships team today!