World-first in Dublin as UPS & Dublin City Council innovate to reinvent sustainable last mile deliveries


An innovative walking and cycle based system designed to optimise deliveries in city centres has launched in Dublin. Operating out of mini urban distribution centres and combining powered e-Walkers and e-Quad cycles, this model allows for last mile deliveries that don’t add to local emissions or congestion, enabling a step change in the way goods are delivered in busy city locations.

Funded by Dublin City Council, Enterprise Ireland and Belfast City Council, the unique solution was developed as part of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) challenge that sought new approaches to optimising deliveries. Participating in the challenge enabled Fernhay, an innovative design and manufacturing consultancy, to develop the new zero emissions delivery solutions for global logistics carrier, UPS, to trial.

The e-walker and e-Quad operate from “urban package eco hubs” that UPS has introduced around the city. The eco-hubs take in larger consignments of deliveries and redistribute them to walkers and cyclers using removable Cube containers. There are already two of these mini distribution centres up and running in Dublin which has facilitated the removal of five diesel vehicles from the road, reducing carbon emissions by up to 45%.

Speaking at the launch, Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council Chief Executive, said: “collaboration is key to tackling the challenges facing our city right now so we are very happy to see our Transportation Department and Smart City programme working with innovative partners such as Fernhay and UPS to address last mile deliveries. This solution helps the city adapt to the Covid-19 situation by enabling foot and bike deliveries and discouraging the return of congestion.”

“It is really exciting to be piloting this in Dublin –the first city to test the Fernhay eWalker. As cities reopen for business after the Covid-19 shutdowns, those looking for ways to keep goods moving while minimising the return of congestion and pollution, should take note.” – said Frances Fernandes, Director, Fernhay.

She explained: “Fernhay’s eWalker and eQuad are part of a wider system that enable key workers to deliver groceries, medicine and parcels without the use of vans. Cities are facing huge change to respond to ‘social distancing’ with pavements widened outside shops and roads narrowed to make more space for walking and cycling. Our system offers a clean and viable option and rethinks how cities can support last mile deliveries now and in the future.”

UPS International Sustainability Director, Peter Harris, said: “This is about reimagining last mile logistics. Cities need solutions that eliminate emissions and congestion and this system achieves that. But it goes further. The ability to load the box that the eWalker and the eQuad carry anywhere within our network will help UPS operate more efficiently. Taking this concept of removable containers, long since practiced in long haul freight, into the urban environment is a game changer and furthers UPS’s long-standing commitment to bring its customers sustainable solutions.”

Finally, Tom Kelly, Head of Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, said: “We are happy to support this challenge which delivers benefits both for Dublin citizens and the innovative technology companies that are helping the City Council address the issue and public impacts of last mile delivery. The SBIR programme is unique in providing public sector bodies and innovative companies the opportunity to work together to develop innovative solutions to big problems, such as optimising deliveries in cities”.

The UPS/ Fernhay partnership won SBIR support because it encourages safer, cleaner, more pedestrian friendly urban environments, and for its potential replicability in other contexts. As pressure mounts to ditch diesel and switch to sustainable, this dynamic consolidation and redistribution model is already contributing to emerging conversations on urban mobility and liveable cities. Other carriers have registered interest in operating similar systems in Dublin, and Belfast are assessing learnings from the initiative for potential applicability there. Last mile deliveries may never be the same again.