Singapore Post Limited (SingPost) and TUMCREATE will on 28 March 2017 commence a road trial of a prototype electric three-wheeler that is environmentally friendly and features innovations to boost mail delivery efficiency.
Developed by researchers with the support of the management team at TUMCREATE, in conjunction with SingPost, the customised vehicle will serve as a test bed for concepts that will guide SingPost’s application of electric vehicle technology for postal operations and eCommerce logistics.
The three wheeler has been designed to streamline postal processes, improve rider experience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SingPost currently operates a fleet of 674 petrol-driven scooters for last mile postal delivery. Of these, about half are three-wheelers, which offer greater ride stability and load capacity than conventional two-wheelers.
Mr Tan Tien Po, SingPost Senior Vice President for Domestic Mail, said, “Innovation and the application of new technologies is how we improve SingPost’s services and meet the evolving postal needs of Singapore. We are excited to take this step forward with TUMCREATE, towards realising an urban logistics solution that addresses the future needs of mail and eCommerce logistics, increasing demands for fast and flexible delivery, and the growing need for environmental sustainability.”
Prof Ulf Schlichtmann, Professor at Technical University of Munich (TUM) and TUMCREATE Program Director, said: “I am really excited about this innovative vehicle for Singapore which our dedicated TUMCREATE team has developed in cooperation with SingPost. It has been a very rewarding collaboration, and we feel that Singapore will benefit from our research expertise which is backed up by TUM’s strong track record in vehicular technology, especially electrically powered vehicles.”
The vehicle’s all-electric drive produces zero local exhaust emissions and, with relative simplicity and fewer moving parts compared with combustion engines, reduces maintenance costs and downtime. Additionally, it offers near-silent operation, thus curbing noise disturbance, especially during deliveries in residential areas.
Modular batteries, the costliest component of the vehicle, were developed by TUMCREATE so that fleet cost may be optimised by matching battery capacity to the route on which the vehicle is deployed. By changing the battery configuration, the vehicle’s range may be configured to 35 kilometres, which is sufficient for an average mail delivery route – or 70 kilometres, which will satisfy almost all postal delivery trips made.
Operating costs as well as battery end-of-life management may be further minimised by incorporating regular charging into routine overnight parking of postal vehicles at delivery bases, thus avoiding the battery degradation caused by fast charging, and the cost of fast chargers.
The vehicle features a specially designed storage system that can reduce a postman’s daily delivery routine by up to 40 minutes. This is achieved through a detachable, rollable storage box that the postman may pack at his mail sorting station, wheel to the vehicle, and load up on the vehicle with the help of a motorised hoist. Packing and unpacking is cut down as the postman no longer requires a separate trolley to transport mail from sorting station to his delivery vehicle.
The box, at 567 litres, offers 23 per cent more carrying capacity than those on existing postal scooters. This enhances delivery efficiency, especially as postal services are used increasingly for eCommerce delivery.
For environmental sustainability, the sidewalls of the box are made from an advanced bamboo composite developed by advanced fibre composite material researchers under the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre. Bamboo is durable, grows fast and is recyclable.
Manoeuvrability and stability when cornering is improved by an articulated tilt mechanism that allows the rider cabin to lean into a turn, independent from the rear cargo section. This increases the vehicle’s agility and reduces steering effort and counteracts cornering forces. While parked, the tilt mechanism is locked to ensure a stable position on three wheels without a kickstand.
The electric three-wheeler is equipped with a smart instrument cluster that includes dynamic GPS routing for priority deliveries and optimised delivery routing, fleet monitoring for data collection and management, integrated cameras, and on-demand tracking.
The trial will take place along two delivery routes between SingPost’s Ayer Rajah Regional Delivery Base and the National University of Singapore and end on 7 April 2017. Three SingPost postmen have been assigned to provide real-world feedback for further development, while a manufacturing partner is being sought to convert the prototype into a market-ready product.