Technology company Port has launched a ‘dark hub' providing a range of electric vehicles that can be hired by couriers making last-mile deliveries in central London.
The EVs are locked and charged in dedicated docking stations at the Q-Park Leicester Square, which is being repurposed as a mobility hub.
Port’s dark hub concept enables individual couriers or delivery firms to rent small delivery EVs, including electric bikes, cargo e-bikes, mopeds or scooters at urban car park locations.
The EVs can hired on a weekly or monthly subscription through the Port app. The vehicle, parking, charging, maintenance and software are all provided by Port.
Once the courier has picked the vehicle from the hub at any time, they undertake their deliveries before returning the EV to the hub at the end of their working day. The vehicle is locked, parked and charged overnight and then ready to be rented the next day. The range and battery capabilities of the EVs means they can be used for an entire day of work.
The last-mile delivery sector, which includes parcel, food and grocery couriers, is predicted to grow 10% annually.
Port says that the sector requires tailorable, scalable tech-based solutions that fulfill growing EV fleet needs. The dark hub launch follows two years of R&D, with Port building every aspect of the platform - including the proprietary hardware and software - from the ground up.
At the heart of the system is a patented universal docking station that can lock and charge any small electric vehicle. This means Port offers a wide range of EVs to meet the different needs of deliverers of food, parcels and groceries.
Following trials in Madrid and the London launch, the company is now working to expand across Europe, with plans to enter the Barcelona market next.
Kamil Suda, founder of Port, said: “We are hugely excited to be launching our first Port dark hub in the heart of London. Electrification of the last-mile delivery industry is both a great challenge and opportunity; we want to bring Port’s solution to every major city to help the sector reach net zero and fully capitalise on the benefits of small EVs.
“The platform also removes all the courier companies' electric fleet parking, charging, maintaining, financing and managing burdens. Offered to both independent couriers and delivery firms, Port's dark hubs mean courier companies can automate currently labour-intensive fleet management tasks and unlock the full potential of EVs.
“At a time of courier shortages, the hubs will also empower more drivers to enter the industry. Building Port's dark hubs in city centres activates a suburban workforce that is currently untapped by the last-mile delivery industry, as suburban workers are largely unable to cover the long distance between their homes and the city centre by e-bike or moped. The dark hubs will enable them to commute into the city centre and pick up their fully charged vehicle for the day.”
Suda said Q-Park offers safe and secure facilities are located in the heart of most major centres in the UK, with the Leicester Square car park was a great location for couriers to get an electric vehicle for before heading out to pick up deliveries.
Q-Park is working to develop parking facilities into mobility hubs that provide access for shared mobility schemes, electric vehicle charging, last mile delivery and retail space all within their safe and secure parking facilities.
John Denton, head of sales and marketing at Q-Park UK said: “We are delighted that Port have decided to work with us to operate from our Leicester Square car park. We believe that our safe and secure facilities offer an ideal location for Port vehicles to be located and easily accessed by couriers. We are delighted to once again demonstrate why we are at the forefront of sustainable urban mobility.”
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