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Electric cargo bikes — which come in all shapes and sizes — are silent and emissions-free alternatives to Bobcats and light trucks, and they're increasingly used in cities for deliveries and municipal improvements.

Why it matters: If you've ever been bothered by the "beep-beep-beep" of a vehicle as it backs up, you'll be grateful to see these sporty little newcomers at work at highway medians and building delivery entrances.

Driving the news: Following a successful pilot in Madison, Wisconsin, the city of Portland, Oregon, will be testing motorized, pedal-assisted e-cargo bikes for municipal landscaping and other projects.

  • The bikes haul equipment and yard waste, etc., and can get into tight places that trucks can't.
  • In Madison, the parks department used them for everything from planting seeds to removing graffiti.
  • "They're fun and they're exciting, and they make people happy," says Patricia Kapinos of Saris Infrastructure, which is supplying the pilot vehicles (at no charge) to Portland and Madison. "You get a lot of comments when you ride them."

Details: Florists, pizza places and supermarkets like Whole Foods have started using e-cargo bikes for short, local deliveries.

  • To beat back car traffic, New York City has been giving free use of commercial parking spaces to cargo bikes owned by Amazon, UPS and DHL.
  • DHL's "Cubicycle" has a reclining seat and solar panels.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 2, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Why going electric makes sense for ride-hailing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Deploying electric vehicles instead of gasoline-powered models for services like Uber and Lyft provides outsized climate benefits compared to emissions cuts from electric vehicles for only personal use, per a peer-reviewed study in Nature Energy.

Why it matters: The analysis, based on California data, follows explosive growth in ride-hailing in recent years — and evidence that it's cannibalizing more climate-friendly mass transit.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
11 mins ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter is a test for the future of space exploration

Ingenuity (left) with Perseverance on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA is set to fly the first test flight of its tiny Ingenuity helicopter on Mars Sunday, marking the advent of drones for space exploration.

Why it matters: If successful, this flight will be the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

The global future is looking dark and stormy

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

A new 20-year-forecast for the world: increasingly fragmented and turbulent.

The big picture: A major report put out this week by the National Intelligence Council reflects a present rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. How the next two decades will unfold depends largely on whether new technologies will ultimately unite us — or continue to divide us.