Car park operator Q-Park has teamed up with electric vehicle charging technology firm Port to launch what it described as the world's first "dark hub" for zero-emission delivery providers.
The hub at Q-Park's Leicester Square car park in London provides a group of state-of-the-art electric vehicles (EVs), locked and charged in dedicated docking stations, that are designed for individual couriers or delivery firms to access.
Emulating the approach of so-called "dark kitchens" that allow various takeaway providers to rent kitchen space, the mobility-as-a-service "dark hub" concept enables individual couriers or delivery firms to rent small delivery EVs, such as electric bikes, cargo e-bikes, mopeds or scooters, from a Port urban car park location.
The EVs can be hired on a weekly or monthly subscription through the Port app, and the vehicle, parking, charging, maintenance and software are all provided by Port, the company said.
Couriers can pick up their vehicle from the hub at any time and then undertake their deliveries before returning the EV to the hub at the end of their working day. The vehicle is then locked, parked and charged overnight so it is ready to be rented the next day.
Port said the approach would allow delivery and courier companies to offer zero-emission services without the need for electric fleet parking, charging, maintenance and financing. "Offered to both independent couriers and delivery firms, Port's dark hubs mean courier companies can automate currently labor-intensive fleet management tasks and unlock the full potential of EVs," the company said.
The launch follows two years of R&D by Port, which has built every aspect of the dark hub platform, including a patented universal docking station that can lock and charge any small EV.
The company said that following successful trials in Madrid, it is taking its first steps to expand across Europe, with plans to enter the Barcelona market next.
"We are hugely excited to be launching our first Port dark hub in the heart of London," said Port founder Kamil Suda. "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 capitalize on the benefits of small EVs."
The partnership was also welcomed by John Denton, head of sales and marketing at Q-Park UK, who 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."