Stellenbosch e-cargo bike project aims to hit the brakes on carbon emissions
Electronic delivery bicycles are being tested in Stellenbosch, with funding from Germany. Cleaner air, less traffic congestion and entrepreneurial opportunities are the objectives.
Electronic cargo bicycles are being trialled in Stellenbosch as part of an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, ease traffic congestion and stimulate local income opportunities.
The idea came from Stellenbosch Fietsry, and the project is a partnership between the Stellenbosch Entrepreneur and Enterprise Development Trust (Seed) and German company Innovationsmanufaktur.
Lark Cycles, a Western Cape e-bike company, designed and built the e-cargo bikes, which have been branded Stroom. Funding is from the German government and the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment, through GIZ, a German development agency.
Excessive carbon emissions are believed to be affecting the world’s climate.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Greenhouse gas emissions are tipping the scales and, yes, every fraction of a degree matters
“The changes are already evident in the record. We know it’s a full degree warmer than it was a century ago,” said Gerard van Weele of the Western Cape department of environmental affairs.
Transport is a “massive” part of the Western Cape’s carbon footprint, he said, and using non-motorised vehicles could help to reduce carbon emissions.
Van Weele, who attended a recent workshop on e-cargo bikes, said of the project: “[It’s] the right thing at the right time. It has huge potential. We saw how motorbike deliveries took off in the last three years. Why should it be petrol motorbikes? There isn’t a good reason, except that people are used to it.”
When measuring the CO2 impact of e-cargo bikes compared with vehicles that use fuel, emissions from importation need to be factored in, according to Sarina Venter, climate adviser for Promethium Carbon, who also attended the workshop.
The carbon footprint of an e-cargo bike would be much less than a motorcycle or a car, she said. However, its use, how it is fuelled, and manufacturing processes must be considered as well, she added.
The e-cargo bikes are manufactured from locally sourced materials, which means “you get the benefits of not getting the emissions from transport and import and you also stimulate the local economy”, said Venter.
“If they can get through getting the infrastructure it needs, it can potentially have a positive impact. For this you need support from the municipality,” she added. Venter also noted that a long-term plan for renewable energy chargers should be considered if the bikes are charged from the grid.
This is in line with one of the project’s main goals, which is to develop charging stations using renewable energy sources. Other project goals include job creation, building adequate cycling infrastructure and enabling goods delivery services to underprivileged communities. Though the project is being trialled in Stellenbosch, the plan is for the bikes to be used all over southern Africa.
The potential for reducing traffic congestion was discussed at the workshop. The Stellenbosch municipal traffic department said congestion was a problem in the town, particularly between 7am to 9am. If more individuals delivering goods used e-cargo bicycles, not cars or motorcycles, it would help.
Promotion of non-motorised transport and environmental objectives are also important for Seed, according to Nicolette Booyens, the organisation’s CEO. Economic development opportunities are also important and she said e-cargo bikes could contribute to sustainable entrepreneurial projects.
To make e-cargo bikes accessible to entrepreneurs in lower-income areas, they would need to be affordable. The current price estimate is R50,000.
Dr Eckehard Moritz, CEO of Innovationsmanufaktur, said: “E-cargo is the solution to many of the problems we face today.”
He believed Stellenbosch was an ideal place for alternative transport.
Dawid Botha, chairperson of Stellenbosch Fietsry, which helped to initiate the project, said: “I am in favour of everything that benefits cycling as a form of transport. It will benefit mobility, morale and a healthy community.” DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly DM168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.
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