German post scores with self-built e-delivery truck StreetScooter
Deutsche Post DHL, the German postal service, couldn’t find an appropriate electric delivery van on the market for its parcel deliverers. That’s why it started to build one itself, the StreetScooter.
Due to a lack of supply, the Post Office asked classic car manufacturers to build a customized electric vehicle. That turned out to be impossible or too expensive. The alternative was the StreetScooter. “Customers don’t like the fact that we drive into the city center with smelly delivery vans.”
Today, StreetScooter, a subsidiary of the listed Deutsche Post DHL, is building two models in the factory of an American supplier in Düren, between Aachen and Cologne. The Work and the Work L are small vans with a load space of 4 or 8 cubic meters, which the German post uses to distribute letters and parcels in rural areas.
Two-letter trays fit on the passenger seat. Packages can be placed in the back of the cargo area on a rough floor mat so that they don’t move. With a full battery, a StreetScooter can cover 80 kilometers.
The vehicle won’t win design awards, but it’s functional. For example, the door is made of extra-strong material, as mail carriers have to get out 200 times a day. In 2011, the German post discovered StreetScooter at the IAA car fair in Hannover. The start-up had been established a year earlier at the renowned Technical University of Aachen.
Deutsche Post’s mission was clear: create an electric delivery van tailored to the postman, which is ergonomic and affordable. After tests involving 400 mail carriers, the StreetScooter was born.
Alternative success story
The StreetScooter has become an alternative success story for the German car industry. In Cologne, the company, together with Ford, is now building a 20 cubic meter delivery van. The large one is intended for the last mile delivery of parcels in large cities. In the World XL, the mail carrier can walk upright through the central aisle and pick packages from three racks.
Germany colors yellow
Deutsche Post DHL already has almost 10.000 yellow StreetScooters on the road in Germany, accounting for one-fifth of the total fleet. This year, the postal company plans to employ a further 6.000 e-delivery vans.
Since 2017, the German postal service has also been selling custom-made e-delivery vans to other companies, such as a German frozen fish company, and a British milk delivery company. Now that many German cities are considering a diesel ban, governments are also showing interest in the emission-free vehicle.
Not more expensive
Like all-electric vehicles, the StreetScooter is not cheap. The smallest model costs 30.000 euros, the middle one 40.000 euros. “Over its entire lifespan, the StreetScooter is as expensive as a van with an internal combustion engine,” says Deutsche Post spokesperson Alexander Edenhofer. “We wouldn’t do this if an electric van were more expensive to use.”
The purchase price is indeed slightly higher, but the fuel is cheaper, the brakes wear less quickly due to the recuperation of braking energy, and you only need to refill fluids for the windscreen wipers.
The high price is also due to labor intensity. In the factory in Düren, where 45 cars a day roll off the line, there are hardly any machines. The assembly is done mainly by hand. “We are a light asset, we invest and automate little,” says Chief Technology Officer Fabian Schmitt.
The company does not currently have any plans to relocate production to cheaper countries in Central Europe. “Low-cost countries are not automatically cheaper if they have to deliver the same quality.”
Loss of 70 million euros
However, not everything runs smoothly at the young company. According to the German magazine Manager Magazin, StreetScooter made a loss of 70 million euros last year. Deutsche Post says it is looking for external partners to support StreetScooter’s growth.
But, according to the German Press, Deutsche Post CEO Frank Appel wants to sell his loss-making subsidiary, where 500 people work. In 2017 there was already a rumor circulating that Volkswagen was interested.
Plus: in recent years, several crucial co-founders have left the company, such as the visionary founder, Professor Günther Schuh. At the moment, he is highly successful with the e.GO, the electric cars that he has built in Aachen.
In the meantime, StreetScooter is facing increasingly intense competition. Last year, the French car manufacturer Renault launched the electric Master Z.E., Volkswagen the e-Crafter. The Alcopa group of the Moorkens family in Antwerp is planning to introduce Chinese branded Maxus e-delivery vans into Belgium shortly. But StreetScooter is confident of its business. “We are the market leader in Europe.”
Hydrogen is the future
The company is already breeding on new plans. It is currently developing a hydrogen fuel cell van for the DHL Express courier service. These couriers travel 250 km a day, which makes an ordinary StreetScooter unsuitable for them. With fuel cells, the vehicle can be ‘recharged’ in five minutes, while the average charging time of a Work e-van is about three hours, and you can drive much further. “For vans, hydrogen is the future,” says Schmitt.
Also on Belgian roads
The StreetScooter is now also on its way to Belgium. The company Kadicon in Wettteren, specialized in professional vehicles, started in June as a Belgian distributor. “We see a lot of interest from cities and municipalities, especially in the green services,” says business manager Didier Van Peteghem. “The spacious cabin for two people and the closed body make the StreetScooter the only fully-fledged e-cargo vehicle on the market today. Kadicon hopes to sell 50 to 100 StreetScooters a year in Belgium.
Bpost is considering testing a first StreetScooter next year. The Belgian postal company employs 3.000 e-bicycles and tricycles, but only 31 e-delivery vehicles. By 2022, Bpost wants to deploy 600 new e-delivery vans, and by 2030 there should be 3.400.