Being green in a red-and-white world

March 1, 2009
When the image of Coca-Cola comes to mind, it's the branding on its cans, that iconic red with white stripes, that really stands at the forefront. But for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), it's the color green that has the most meaning. That's why CCE, the largest marketer, producer and distributor of Coca-Cola products in the world, has just purchased 185 hybrid-electric tractors to join 142 hybrid delivery

When the image of Coca-Cola comes to mind, it’s the branding on its cans, that iconic red with white stripes, that really stands at the forefront. But for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), it’s the color green that has the most meaning. That’s why CCE, the largest marketer, producer and distributor of Coca-Cola products in the world, has just purchased 185 hybrid-electric vehicles, 150 single-axle tractors and 35 12-bay Kenworth T370s to join 142 hybrid delivery trucks it currently operates throughout the U.S. and Canada. Once de­­livered, it’s believed the total will be the largest hybrid delivery fleet in North America.

With 20,061 vehicles, those 327 hybrids represent a small percentage of CCE’s overall fleet but a huge step forward in the development and deployment of hybrid technologies, something vp of procurement Gary Kapusta hopes other companies will pick up on in the future as costs come in line with traditional vehicles.

“It’s a partnership with our suppliers, we certainly couldn’t do this alone, and we’re all in it for the long haul,” Kapusta says. “We’re proud of what we’re doing but we’re very humble. We’re trying to do this in a very controlled manner.”

CCE, along with Eaton Corp., began looking at hybrid technology in 2003. “Coca-Cola has been consistently involved with us in the development of our hybrid power solutions since Eaton’s first ‘Voice of the Hybrid Customer’ meetings back in 2003,” says Dimitri Kazarinoff, Eaton’s gm of Emerging Technologies and Business Development for its Truck Group. “Along with other visionary customers, they helped us to understand the performance, efficiency and reliability requirements that would allow hybrid power to make economic sense for the long run. And, of course, Coca-Cola’s commitment to sustainability and environmental quality in their operations matches that of our own company, so the partnership has had all the right ingredients for success.”

The new 55,000-lb.-GCVW tractors, which will be deployed throughout this year, are Kenworth vehicles with PACCAR PX-6 engines and Eaton’s hybrid diesel-electric transmission. The hybrid system, through a series of lithium ion batteries working with an electric motor/generator, helps launch the vehicle and will power the truck at speeds under 30 mph.
“In inner-city applications, 80% of the time the vehicle could be in electric mode,” Kapusta says, adding that the drivers have embraced the vehicles.

The new hybrid tractors will use about 30% less fuel and produce 30% fewer emissions than standard tractors. CCE’s mix of hybrid vehicles includes 142 12-bay box trucks, 120 of which are Kenworth T370 models, with capacities of 33,000 lb. GVW purchased in 2008.

Because the average truck is driven about 25,000 mi./yr., and CCE keeps its vehicles for about 15 years, the company anticipates recouping much of the 30 to 40% premium.

“We do believe at some point the economics will make sense,” Kapusta says. “We’re really, really looking at this from a CRS [Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability] perspective.” CRS is CCE’s plan to improve the company through five strategic focus areas: water stewardship, sustainable packaging/recycling, energy conservation/climate change, product portfolio/well-being, and a diverse and inclusive culture.

About the Author

Brian Straight | Managing Editor

Brian joined Fleet Owner in May 2008 after spending nearly 14 years as sports editor and then managing editor of several daily newspapers.  He and his staff  won more than two dozen major writing and editing awards. Responsible for editing, editorial production functions and deadlines.

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