Pedal Me > Uncategorised  > Pedal Me sustainability report

Pedal Me sustainability report

Life Cycle CO emissions of Cargo Bikes compared to Electric LGVs in the context of Pedal Me

by Dan Nowak


pedal me


A life cycle analysis of embedded carbon in manufacture and use of Pedal Me e-cargo bikes, electric vans and conventionally fuelled vans was carried out.  As far as possible methods were kept the same across different vehicle types, although some real life data was used in the analysis of the Pedal Me’s CO2 emissions.

Results indicated significant savings in CO2 emissions of 53g/km compared to electric vans and 224g/km compared to conventional vehicles).


Currently, Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs) dominate the UK logistics system with the current number at 4.2m ( It is estimated that these vehicles are responsible for 19 million tonnes of CO2 per year (The Low Emission Van Guide). Efforts to reduce this have focused on offering incentives to switch to Electric Vehicles (EVs). While EVs emit near-zero local CO2 emissions, total CO2 emissions over the vehicle life cycle are reduced by only 20-27% (Ellingsen 2016) due to an energy intensive manufacturing process and carbon heavy grid. In the last decade, electric assist cargo bikes have emerged as a viable alternative solution in urban environments, and could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 70% (Melo and Baptista 2017). As interest has focused on EVs, there has been little research into the life cycle emissions of cargo bikes. This report aims to quantify the life cycle emissions of cargo bikes alongside EVs in the context of Pedal Me. 

Operating a fleet of 53 cargo bikes, Pedal Me is currently the largest cargo bike only fleet operator in the world. This report assumes typical riding habits and use of the Urban Arrow cargo bikes by the company. Existing studies (Melo and Baptista, Sustainable ) have investigated the reduction in emissions by introducing cargo bikes into simulations of a complete logistics system. However, Pedal Me currently primarily operates ‘courier’ A to B journeys and displaces LGVs on these trips. Therefore, it is reasonable to compare emissions per distance travelled, rather than within a logistics system as a whole. A ‘cradle to grave’ life cycle approach is the most complete, considering that an estimated 46% of emissions contributed by EVs are from the manufacturing phase (Ricardo).


Urban Arrow cargo bike


ItemWeight / CapacityCarbon intensitytCO2 (kg)Lifespan (km)CO2 g/ km
Urban Arrow52kg4.8kg/ kg1240.0100,00032.4
Bosch Battery pack0.5kwh77kg / kwh238.520,00041.9

1 EV excluding batteries manufactured in EU (Ellingsen 2016), 2 Li-ion battery manufactured in EU  (PEFCR), 3 Pedal Me experience, 4 1500 charge cycles

Lifecycle CO2 emissions of manufacture = 4.30 g/km


Power usage10.0167 kwh / km
Grid carbon intensity2241g / kwh
Grid efficiency393%
Charging efficiency390%

1 estimated based on 30km per battery, 2 UK average 2019 3 T&E

Carbon intensity of usage = 4.51 g/km


As cargo bikes are e-assisted, a moderate amount of physical effort is required to operate them and therefore the rider’s diet contributes energy to move cargo. Food production contributes a substantial amount of carbon emissions, which varies based on food type. Extra food taken on by riders is usually in the form of cereal bars, sugary snacks and extra carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, oats). For the purpose of this study it can be assumed that extra food falls in the vegan category. 


Diet CO2 emissions (g/ calorie)
Meat heavy3.4
Meat moderate2.8
Meat light2.3
Fish based2.0
Vegetarian 2.0

It is difficult to precisely quantify the energy burned by a rider operating a cargo bike as it would vary based on the load, terrain, motor assist mode and rider fitness. Therefore, three intensity scenarios have been presented. As Central London is undulating but not hilly, rider fitness is high and riders use the high assistance ‘sport’ mode, the low intensity scenario is most appropriate. This has been cross referenced with heart rate based calorie estimates from riders.












Carbon intensity of rider diet = 22.1 g/km



ItemWeight / CapacityCarbon intensitytCO2 (kg)Lifespan (km)CO2 g/ km
Nissan NV-200 exc. Battery1194.54.8kg/ kg15,733.6250,000322.93
Battery unit40kwh77kg/ kwh3,08012.32

1 EV excluding batteries manufactured in EU (Ellingsen 2016), 2 Li-ion battery manufactured in EU  (PEFCR), 3 Average usage for LGV over 12 years

Life cycle emissions of manufacture = 35.25g/km


Power usage10.1741 kwh / km
Grid carbon intensity2241g / kwh
Grid efficiency393%
Charging efficiency390%

1 Real driver statistics (,  2 UK average 2019 3 T&E

Carbon intensity of usage = 49.38 g/km



ItemWeightCarbon intensitytCO2 (kg)Lifespan (km)CO2 g/ km
VW Caddy1491kg4.8kg/ kg17516.0250,00028.63

Life cycle emissions of manufacture = 28.63g /km


Fuel consumption0.067L / km
CO2 content of diesel2640g / L
Upstream emissions (WTT) 735g / L
Total CO2 emissions3375 / L

Carbon intensity of usage = 226.13g /km


VehicleLifespan (km)tCO2 manufacture (kg)Manufacture (g/km)Usage (g/km)Total (g/km)
Pedal Me inc. food100,000 bike, 20,000 battery2784.326.630.9
Nissan NV-200250,0008,81335.349.484.6
VW Caddy250,000751628.6226.1254.8

The results show that the Cargo Bike produces the least CO2 emissions of the vehicles studied throughout the life cycle despite a lower estimated lifespan. The E-Van has a greater emissions output in the manufacturing phase compared to a conventional van but this is caught up quickly in the usage phase, with over 4 times the CO2 emissions per km. The cargo bike is most sensitive to the rider diet, as this makes up 77% of its life cycle CO2 emissions per km. The E-Van is most sensitive to the carbon intensity of the electricity grid the vehicle is manufactured in and operates on.


The results show that the cargo bike can be manufactured and ridden for 328,000km before the manufacturing emissions of the e-van is reached. Even at the worst case scenario of a meat heavy rider diet and high riding intensity this only reduces to 91,000km. On top of this, cargo bikes can use shorter routes due to greater accessibility and road policy. The vast difference in ‘embedded’ manufacturing carbon gives the cargo bike a great advantage for maximising the sustainability of logistics systems.


Ian Cleverly
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.