Trials are to take place of a new electric-powered trailer that will enable cycle or foot couriers to deliver large quantities of parcels in urban areas.

Technology being deployed on the trailer is termed ‘net neutral’, so the weight of the trailer is not felt by the handler, allowing for increased volumes of last-mile deliveries by foot or cycling.

The project team said use of such trailers would decrease van usage in urban areas, thereby reducing both emissions and congestion.

It could also lead to increased parcel drop rates and more flexibility in delivery routes.

Six trailers can be dropped into a busy city centre by a single van, allowing the trailer system to cover a large urban area.

The trailer is to be developed through the Low Impact City Logistics project, which is part of a £10m research investment by Innovate UK for collaborative R&D to improve end-to-end people and freight journeys.

A consortium led by development consultancy Fernhay, will partner with tech firm Skotkonung and the University of Huddersfield to develop the prototype, which will be tested in Cambridge by cycle logistics operator Outspoken Delivery.

Robin Haycock, director of Fernhay, said: “Delivering increasing volumes of parcels to people in dense urban environments, whilst minimising the environmental effects and saving money, is the solution that we hope to deliver with our trailer system.”

Rob King, MD at Outspoken Delivery, added: “We have over 10 years experience in cycle-based delivery and have seen huge leaps in innovation in the last few years which has contributed to cycle-based delivery being seen as a demonstrable solution to the environmental problems associated with deliveries in urban areas.”

Following successful operation of the prototype, live trials will be carried out by UPS this spring in London’s Mayfair, one of the densest delivery areas in the capital.

Peter Harris, UPS director of sustainability EMEA, said: “UPS has always prided itself on its market-leading sustainability schemes, and the Low Impact City Logistics project is no different. The UK is one of UPS’s leading markets in terms of environmental initiatives, and is a natural fit for the trial of this exciting venture.”

  • UPS director of sustainability, EMEA, Peter Harris and Outspoken Delivery will both be speaking at 'Freight in the City Spring Summit: Improving the last mile' on 1 March in Birmingham. Register now for your free place to attend.