The Yax by Upcycles.

An unassumingly revolutionary vehicle for last-mile logistics.

Among current discussions of transportation technology, dominated as they are by discussions of pioneering battery technology and the dizzying potential of autonomous vehicles, the Yax by Upcycles cuts a distinctive figure. From a distance it appears like a curious marriage of a bicycle and a forklift: the rider's seat is elevated above a back tire, situated behind and a wide front deck platform coasting on two smaller, wider front tires.

It looks a little like a rickshaw reconfigured for freight rather than passengers, and perhaps the rickshaw's natural evolution is a useful starting point to think of the Yax's small, rugged adaptiveness in the contemporary environment. It's "the future of last-mile logistics," as Upcycles co-founder Daniel Wendlek puts it. Developed in part during their residency in the second cohort of the venture accelerator, URBAN-X, Wendlek and Nicholas Wong posed the Yax as "a socially responsible, transitional step," a zero-emissions, human-electric hybrid, that combines rugged reliability with efficiency in a dense urban environment.

In contrast to the carbon fiber prototypes of self-driving cars that seem to be designed halfway into a Jetsons future, the Yax gives the impression of real pragmatism, as if built from the perspective of a contemporary bike-messenger rather than that of a software engineer. However, this can belie the sensitive technologies that undergird its utilitarian-seeming frame.  

Throttle controls provide electric assistance based on input interpolated from pedaling, the two front wheels are configured with hub motors that increase stability and traction control. Even carrying a quarter ton, "it goes twenty-five miles per hour, has a range of twenty-five miles, and does it on a single charge," Wendlek says.

The elevation of the rider's seat provides increased visibility, and integrated controls provide direct access to braking, turn signals, and horns. Fully loaded, it can seamlessly transition into reverse. Its width was designed to fit into a bike lane: in one video, Upcycles shows the Yax picking its way through the narrow hallways of a Greenpoint building and emerging from a New York Water Taxi.

Delivery tests have been conducted with sustainability-minded local businesses, among them  She Wolf Bakery, the Brooklyn Kitchen, and Meyers Bageri -- the latter part of the Claus Meyer's family of sustainably-focused purveyors, along with Restaurant Norman. "I've driven a small box truck in the city," said Jacques Johnson, head baker at Meyers Bageri. "It's insane. It's impossible. A trip by car to the edge of Greenpoint, you're looking at a half-hour, forty minutes. On a bike you could be there in seven minutes. It's the smartest way to do it."

The delivery loop through these eco-conscious restaurants has inspired further efficiencies. “We have a garden and a small compost operation,” Wendlek told me. “The idea has been to deliver bread, back-haul food waste, compost that, grow things for the various food producers and create a closed loop system with the chefs directly involved in logistics and logistics directly involved in chef's decision-making.“

URBAN-X is accepting applications until July 21. Apply here.