Ghent: delivering parcels over water on solar powered raft
A Ghent entrepreneur, Geert Dekleermaeker, has created a simple raft that drives on solar energy to bring goods to the city centre. The raft is 6 m long, 2,70 m large, has a load capacity of 1,3 ton and is driven by two electrical outboard motors that work on solar energy from panels on the roof.
With a speed of 7 kph the raft can sail all day on one charge. Maximum speed capacity is higher but then the battery needs some charging in-between.
Dekleermaeker already made several tests with the raft to bring goods to the city, and, by his own account, he’s already negotiating with some courier and logistic companies for further expansion of the project.
“DHL is evaluating the possibilities of it, and also companies in Hannover (Germany), Göteborg (Sweden) and Manchester (UK) are interested.
Transport over water seems to be a logical solution for a city that feels very strongly about sustainability and that already bans cars from the city centre, like Ghent does. Boats, in combination with bike-riding couriers and collect points, could be a good way of keeping trucks from the city.
“Ghent is an ideal city to try this out”, Dekleermaeker says. “There is not one spot in the whole inner city that is further than 600 metre removed from the water.” Also other cities in Belgium and Holland have similar waterways but they’re not optimally exploited yet.
Earlier Ghent already created a kind of think tank, GentLevert (Ghent delivers), to work out creative ways for delivering and picking up goods to and from the city centre.
Early in the morning
“Water definitely is one of the possible channels for it”, says Ghent’s Alderman for Finance, Trade and Innovation, Christophe Peeters (Open Vld).”Besides, those rafts are quiet so they could be used for delivering early in the morning or late at night. Ghent has the ambition to be pioneer in this and we’re planning to start some pilot projects soon.”
There is still a lot to investigate, though. Dekleermaeker: “Where can we load and unload? Where can we install collect points?” The city will also need warehouses at the border of the city where all goods can be centralized before delivery.
Cost for fuel is nil
Price will play an important role too, when it comes to convincing shops and other companies. “The price is now more or less what you pay for delivery by van”, Dekleermaeker says. “After all, the cost for fuel is nil. When cities will actually collect taxes on CO2 emissions, the price can even go further down.”From reactions Dekleermaeker has noticed that companies appreciate the ‘green’ and sustainable image it gives them.
As shipping by boat is a sector that is to become autonomous in the future, even easier than cars, it’s not unlikely to see delivery platforms without pilot at an even lower cost roaming the city waters in the near future.