Technology company Port has introduced the world’s first ‘dark hub’ – a group of electric vehicles, locked and charged in dedicated docking stations deployed in an inner city, off-street parking site – with the aim of empowering London’s last-mile industry to switch to electric and reduce its CO2 footprint.
The hub has been developed in partnership with European parking operator Q-Park at their Leicester Square car park which they are repurposing as a mobility hub.
The mobility-as-a-service dark hub concept is designed to enable individual couriers or delivery firms to rent small delivery EVs including electric bikes, cargo e-bikes, mopeds or scooters which can deliver food, parcels and groceries from a Port urban car park location.
EVs are hired on a weekly or monthly subscription through the Port app, and 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 long range and battery capabilities of the EV means it can be used for an entire day of work.
Kamil Suda, founder, 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 £1 trillion last-mile delivery industry (including parcel, food and grocery couriers) is predicted to grow 10% annually, requiring new tailorable, scalable tech-based solutions that fulfil growing EV fleet needs. With regulatory requirements pressuring more last-mile delivery companies to switch to electric, the dark hubs are designed to support the industry’s move towards net zero.
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.
Port added 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.
The dark hub launch follows two years of R&D by Port, who have built every aspect of the dark hub platform – including the proprietary hardware and software – from the ground up. Following successful trials in Madrid, the company is now taking its first steps to expand across Europe – with plans to enter the Barcelona market next.