The DPD micro-depot in Hamburg’s Hafencity lives up to its name. It’s so small, you could almost miss it. It’s a parking lot with two electric tricycles. The parcels are delivered and reloaded in the Sprinter. DPD is testing the so-called Tripl in Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg. The small e-mobile has a capacity of about 50 small parcels with a maximum total weight of 200 kg. Tripl driver Serdor Aydin (33) explains that he can serve a maximum of 25 stops on his tour through Hamburg’s Hafencity. Small, green, local – micro-depots are becoming increasingly important in city logistics. From there, delivery can be organised with freight bikes or small electric vehicles in the immediate vicinity. In this way, service providers can circumvent impending driving bans in cities and build a green image.

UPS is also testing the added value of local hubs, also in Hamburg.

Since 2015, the kep service provider has set up several parcel containers in the city centre. These are delivered fully loaded by truck in the morning and picked up again empty in the afternoon. On site, the parcels are delivered on foot by sack truck or by e-load wheel. According to its own information, UPS saves itself the daily use of up to ten delivery vehicles (depending on the season). The trend towards micro-depots is not only visible in Hamburg. Only recently, four projects were awarded prizes at the Federal Competition for Sustainable Logistics Concepts in Berlin. Three of them focus on the local microhub. In the research project “Intelligent City Logistics” in Heidelberg, for example, goods are reloaded onto e-truck wheels at central transhipment points. The TU Nuremberg project, which also received an award, follows the same approach. Even the logistics provider Dachser relies on microdepots in Stuttgart. The company does not deliver parcels, but general cargo consignments weighing up to 250 kg with electrified load wheels from the micro-lift to the customer. The list of projects is long and the approaches differ. But everything revolves around the microdepot and delivery with something other than a diesel-powered transporter. Citylogistics projects like those of DPD and UPS have an interesting side effect. They bind not only customers but also specialists.

“A trip like this is fun. It’s like a toy for grown-ups”

says DPD press spokesman Peter Rey. The driver can only confirm this. He particularly likes the fast acceleration. “It’s quite an eye-catcher, and people want to take photos,” says Aydin. “I’m often asked about it.” Aydin believes that the unusual means of transport makes the job of the parcel carrier quite interesting. He had volunteered to be a test driver when DPD put the Elek trodreiräder on the road in Hamburg. He has been working for almost three years at the DPD branch, where he starts his shift in the sorting department at 3.30 a.m. Since the introduction of the tripl he has also been taking a tour of the Hafencity around 10 o’clock. This gives him a completely new insight into the driver’s job and allows him to get to know all sides of the Kep service. This is already helpful, he says, also for his work at the DPD depot. So he has no regrets about the decision to take on two very different jobs at DPD. Even though he would like a windscreen for the e-mobile in the cold weather. “I’m not cold,” says Aydin. “I’m constantly running up and down stairs, it keeps me warm. But the wind and rain are sometimes unpleasant.” E-wheels have another advantage. Parked roads and lack of parking spaces are no problem for the delivery staff. They don’t have to stand in a second row, but can stop between parked cars or at the edge of the sidewalk. This also saves the driver a lot of stress. The Tripl can be driven with a normal class B driving licence. You don’t need a driving licence for the cargo bike, which opens up the pool even more for professionals. In order for load bikes with and without electric motor, with two or three wheels, to be used efficiently on the last mile, Kep services need micro depots. Which brings us back to the topic and is fully in line with the trend. If microhubs are in demand by municipalities and kep service providers alike, why are there no more of them? Often there is simply a lack of space. To circumvent the problem, logistics service providers could share space for local hubs. The showcase project Komodo in Berlin, where DHL, DPD, UPS, GLS and Hermes used the same micro-depot, was recently discontinued. However, here too, each had its own container. Sharing the latter – the companies did not want to work so closely together. In Nuremberg, microdepots are to be integrated into existing properties, while in Hamburg and Munich distribution containers are parked in the neighbourhood during the day. Or they will use the underground car park and a Sprinter. However, DPD company spokesman Rey is not happy with the solution and would like to see a lockable area where more shipments can be stored temporarily.

By Carla Westerheide, SHIFT Mobility x DVZ Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung