On the recommendation of the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, I went to the gigantic IAA fair in Hannover to learn what is going on in the German city logistics scene and maybe make some contacts.
As usual I travel by train from Gothenburg. I have been on the ground since 2007 for climate reasons. Incredibly enough train services have become worse, not better, in these 10 years. The night trains from Copenhagen are discontinued, the train and ferry still run on diesel (still many times more climate friendly travelling than by air) and there is still no wi-fi onboard… It is not exactly like governments and rail services want you to take the train instead of flying.
The very first impression when arriving to Hannover (home of VW commercial vehicles) and the fair was not too good – VW defending the diesel in the IAA daily newspaper and had no obvious innovations to solve the challenges of city logistics in congested cities. VW diesel emission scandal anybody?
But there was also some promise, the Heisenberg tilting cargo trike at least got a little attention in the paper too!
The next impression was the scale of it all. There are bus shuttles circulating the fair grounds -and there was a point they were there. In the first big hall I entered I found Volvo and was impressed -their exhibition area was like a village, complete with a street and big café.
But then I entered the Mercedes hall and the Volvo village seemed small and simple in comparison… My jaw dropped several times, I tell you! Both because of the hall and shows, and from the innovations shown. Even if none of the innovations are commercially available, it still was impressive and I am pretty sure that some of this stuff will become reality. See for yourself:
Afterwards it looks almost bizarre, you could say they were going all in. But on site the show did the trick, everyone seemed as amazed as myself. Automated loading and unloading really makes sense -if you could do it reliably and at reasonable cost. On the seminar on “Urban logistics of the future” they went more into detail on their approach, with Vans being used as a “mothership” sending out parcels via drones and robots.
They also mentioned that digitalisation is opening up for all sorts of actors to become parts of the supply chain.
But they are missing one important piece of the puzzle -nothing mentioned about cycle logistics. The streets in dense cities are not always this free of traffic, Mercedes…
Afterwards I also wonder what their current vehicles offerings look like, the vehicles they are actually selling? Are all these bells and whistles just diverting away from all their diesel sales? Maybe they are no better than VW, just putting on a good show?
On the other end of the scale was Streetscooter. You could maybe imagine that the Mercedes electric vision van would be neither cheap to buy or to service. Streetscooter (now owned by Deutsche Post DHL), takes on a quite different approach. Also electric, also focusing on functionality and delivery efficiency, but made to be as cheap as possible both to produce and service. Parts can be easily bolted on and off. It is also modular, so you can put something else than the current box on.
Let’s leave vans for a while and talk cargo cycles instead! The whole cargo cycle and cycle logistics community should be really grateful towards HNF-Heisenberg. The only cargo cycle on the show, but what an impression it made! They did everything right. First of all producing an impressive looking product, then partnering with a strong brand (Sortimo), publishing a nice video ahead of the conference, having lots of cycles with different modules on the show and last but definitely not least, offering test rides. They gave 200 testrides per day.
HNF-Heisenberg made the difference from no cargo cycles on the show, to making cargo cycles something attractive for the visitors. Thank you so much!
I am also excited about the focus on service personnel -has the cargo cycling world been focusing too much on logistics? There are a lot of service vans and cars clogging up our cities…
On the “Future of Urban Logistics” seminar at the IAA, cycle logistics was actually mentioned quite a lot, despite this being the fair of commercial motor vehicle manufacturers. Maybe not as much as we in the cycle logistics world would consider fair, given the potential, but it certainly did get mentioned by many actors.
Of the cycle logistics initiatives presented on the seminar was the UPS and city of Hamburg co-operation with mobile depot and cargo cycles. An important step forward -but with potential to improve, which I will come back to that in a later blog post.
In the food line, I ended up beside the Mayor of Hannover, Stefan Schostok. He told me that the modal share for cycling is 19 %, targeting 25 % in 5-6 years. Good work for a motor city! I did not miss out on the opportunity to show some photos. When he saw the Armadillo Two-seater, he said “We need those!”. Let’s see if he really means it… 🙂