Why Germans Love Cargo Bikes
The demand for cargo pedal bikes and light electric logistics vehicles is growing in Germany. Consumers and delivery companies are looking for nimbler and more sustainable alternatives to cars and vans for shorter journeys.
Germany may be known as “the country of cars,” but these days its city streets are increasingly home to a new breed of transport: cargo bikes. They’re a sustainable alternative for local journeys and nimble, last-mile logistics. Families are using them to schlep kids around and get groceries. Delivery companies employ them to bring takeout food and postal services to move packages. Growing numbers of Germans are getting on their cargo bikes as a low-cost and eco-friendly transport option.
International companies such as the Dutch cargo-bike leasing company DOCKR are moving in on the opportunity. It recently signed an agreement to supply the booming Gorillas delivery chain with hundreds of bikes for deliveries in cities across Germany. “The market is booming with cargo bikes,” says the CEO of DOCKR’s German operation, Shahram Rezasade. “The zeitgeist has changed. People are really looking into alternatives.”
Germany represents a substantial business opportunity. In 2021, there were more than 100,000 cargo bikes on its streets and sales figures are expected to increase by 50 percent each year. It’s a logical development: More and more people are realizing that for short journeys bikes can be more effective and convenient than cars or delivery vans. That’s coupled with a growing desire to go green. While electric cars have received the bulk of the investment and state support, switching from internal combustion engines to electric won’t eliminate traffic jams or speed up deliveries.
“Light electric logistics vehicles”
Drawing on the country’s engineering expertise, German entrepreneurs are coming up with some novel ideas: For instance, Ducktrain from Aachen offers four-wheeled, battery-driven “ducks” just bigger than a standard pallet and small enough to fit onto sidewalks and bike lanes. Up to five can be formed into “duck trains,” dramatically increasing the amount of cargo a single rider can manage. “It’s five times the payload you would have from a single cargo bike,” says Ducktrain CEO Kai Kreisköther.
Facts & Figures
Number of cargo bikes in Germany in 2021
Expected cargo bike sales growth in Germany per year
Source: European Cargo Bike Industry Survey
Kreisköther says the German market is ripe for investment from automotive and other suppliers – and recommends looking at the growing market in terms of “light electric logistics vehicles” rather than “cargo bikes.” “There is a whole segment that is smaller than a car and bigger than a bike,” Kai says. “For companies involved in brake components, mechatronics, tires, electronics, there’s a huge opportunity here.”
The consumer market is booming, too. The Berlin showroom of Punta Velo, a cargo bike dealer with stores across Germany, has long waiting lists for people hoping to buy family cargo bikes. Punta Velo CEO Gerd Lemken says more families are opting for a cargo bike – often with an electric motor – rather than a second car, for both convenience and environmental reasons. “These aren’t hippies from the ‘70s,” Lemken says. “They’re paying full price for a transportation alternative that’s still much cheaper than an electric car.”