Undoubtedly the smallest vehicle on display at Freight in the City was the If Vehicles prototype, an electrically-powered multi-modal last mile delivery vehicle.
It can be transformed from a light quadricycle to a power assisted trolley by sliding the driving position away under the load bed. In power-assisted trolley mode it can be used in pedestrian areas to access collection and delivery points.
“We don’t want to replace vans, we just want to make sure they are 100 per cent efficient”, CEO Andrew Hodgson told CM, “At the moment, delivery vans, especially in the last mile are around 50 per cent full, because that’s all that the person that’s driving them can actually do. We are working with our partners, the Algorithm People to carry out simulations to work out exactly how many we can replace. Our early simulations have estimated that one van servicing a hub and spoke operation can drop off four or five of our vehicles and we can probably replace six or seven vans because that one van is 100 per cent efficient, doing three or four round trips to the depot.
If Vehicles has a few different options where loading capacities are concerned. The company plans to work with its customers to create a customer-specific vehicle. “Our future thinking is that it could use micro-containers, which would be passed between different modes of transport”, says Hodgson.
The company is thinking of containers with 0.5m3 or 1.0m3 capacity. “We’re looking at ways to minimise the amount of infrastructure needed to transfer loads from the van to our vehicle. We’re working with a company called Vic Young up in Newcastle. He makes electric tail lifts. We would have a false floor where this rolls out from. The If Vehicles would all be above it, roll straight onto it and away. We’ve got a few different methods; we’re just trying to work out which is the best for which customer.”
The company expects that the vehicle would operate mainly in trolley mode to cater for local deliveries. “Then when the rider needs to get to the next intersection point when a van is coming along to drop off goods, that’s when they would jump on it and ride through the streets to get to that point”, says Hodgson.
Production versions will be around 760mm wide to avoid getting in the way of pedestrians. One of the ideas the company is considering is to use re-cycled composite material from de-commissioned wind turbines to construct the vehicles to improve their environmental performance.
In trials, the prototype vehicle has a battery life of over 12 hours, so there should be no need to re-charge them during a working day. If operating in hilly areas, for example, the company is looking at designing additional battery capacity using a modular design so if batteries do need to be exchanged during a shift, that can be carried out easily.