The foundations of e-mobility had been laid in the 19th century and electric vehicles were used at the post office early on. Electric vehicles were particularly convenient on short routes and with low payloads, so the postal service mainly used them for local and suburban transport.
The first attempts at electrically powered mail vans were undertaken by the Imperial Reichspost in 1899 in Berlin. Their exterior designs still oriented themselves strongly towards the stagecoaches of the time.
From 1901 the Bavarian State Post tested this "Elektrizitäts-AG, formerly Schuckert & Co." tricycle from Nuremberg for free. Due to its short service life, it was retired in 1903.
The Reichspost used these electric vehicles in 1910 to carry mailbags and express parcel deliveries. In contrast to vehicles with combustion engines, they were quiet and emission-free.
In 1908, the Reichspost launched a successful large-scale test in Berlin and Leipzig with electric Hansa Lloyd parcel vans. Their advantages were long service life, low failure frequency, low maintenance costs, economical power consumption, and easy handling.
In 1910, 2 of these electric letter collection vehicles were used in Hamburg. They carried a payload of 440 pounds (200 kg), had 5 horsepower, and reached a top speed of 12 miles per hour.
The "electrification of the postal local service" set out by the Reichspost had already been implemented in Berlin in 1925: 360 electric mail cars replaced 1,000 horses. They had an operating range of 37 miles.
In addition to the Bergmann Elektrizitätswerke AG from Berlin as the largest supplier, Hansa-Lloyd-Werke in Bremen was one of the leading manufacturers of electric vehicles for the Reichspost.
For the large parcel vans, the 40-cell battery was suspended under the frame of the chassis. Batteries were charged away from the vehicle so that the vans were constantly available.
Importance was placed on a fast battery exchange and the Reichspost electric fleet therefore also included replacement batteries. The so-called battery tray was mounted with the help of a trolley.
After a decree by the National Socialist authorities in 1934, all post vehicles were painted red. In 1938, the Reichspost stock had peaked with 2,648 electric cars.
After the Second World War, the Bundespost once again began to develop electric vehicles in cooperation with the Maschinenfabrik Esslingen and Lloyd-Motorenwerke Bremen manufacturing plants.
Despite the advantages of these 2.8-ton delivery vehicles as ideal city vehicles, further use of electric vehicles by the Federal Post Office failed in 1958 due to the overall economic result.
In the GDR the development of Deutsche Post was similar, and the production of electric vehicles was discontinued in the mid-1950s. However, the miner's vans, popularly known as "Suppentriesel", initially continued to be used until their withdrawal from service due to technical issues.
Most notably, the industrial vans used for in-house transport in the post office, which also ran in closed rooms, were generally powered by electricity.
Following the oil crisis of the 1970s and rising fuel prices, the post office launched a new trial with electric vehicles that had a top speed of 43 miles per hour and an operating range of 43 miles. It failed due to the age-old main issue: the batteries and charging infrastructure.
Since 2000 Deutsche Post has been using electric pedelec-class bicycles for delivery, where the driver is aided by an electric drive when pedaling.
Since 2014 there have been pilot schemes by DHL to deliver packages by bicycle. The postman can mount a container box with express shipments directly onto the Cubicycle.
Since there is a shortage of suitable electric vehicles for postal services, the Deutsche Post DHL Group has been producing its own electric delivery vehicles with its affiliate StreetScooter GmbH since 2014.
Fully charged: how electric vehicles transformed post
A virtual exhibition by Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Wenke Wilhelm
All objects are part of the collection of Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Burkert, Gerhard: Der technische Kraftfahrdienst bei der Deutschen Bundespost, Goslar 1963.
Hubrig: Das Elektrofahrzeug im Dienste der Deutschen Reichspost, seine verkehrs- und volkswirtschaftliche Bedeutung, in: Archiv für Post und Telegraphie, 1935, S. 133–143.
Maderholz, Erwin: Elektrofahrzeuge im Postdienst, in: Archiv für deutsche Postgeschichte, Bd. 2, 1981, S. 5–33.