Mike Casteel director of fleet procurement for United Parcel Service discusses electric vehicles during the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo ACT Expo photo

Rapid advancements boost momentum for electric cargo vehicles

May 8, 2017
Investments by OEMs are bringing costs lower, while increasing distances these vehicles can travel.

LONG BEACH, CA. Among the many alternative fuels and power systems discussed throughout the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, the strongest buzz may surround electricity.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel with [electric vehicles],” said Mike Casteel, director of fleet procurement for United Parcel Service (UPS).

For UPS, electricity makes particularly good sense for its package delivery vans, which generally return to the same spot in the same building every night.

“We think this is coming soon,” he said of wider adoption of electric vehicles in the cargo space. 

The company already has used a variety of alternative fuels for more than 1 billion miles.

Often times, regulations from government agencies around the globe are driving the electricity push. Now, equipment manufacturers stepping in to speed the process, said Michael Simon, president and CEO of TransPower.

A look inside an all-electric bus from GreenPower. (ACT Expo photo)

“Major OEMs are starting to show sincere interest, which is likely to drive costs down significantly and improve quality over the next five years,” said Simon.

Andy Swanton, vice president of truck sales for BYD, said during a panel discussion the best delivery window for electric vehicles is between 50 and 200 miles a day.

“You want a certain number of miles but not too many,” he said, factoring in battery life and weight in relation to fuel and other savings.

While cost and technological barriers still exist, rapid advancements are being made, he said.

Looking ahead, Swanton envisioned an infrastructure system similar to today’s gasoline and diesel stations, where drivers pull in and swamp out their batteries, rather than stopping for long periods of time to charge.

Abas Goodrazi, president and CEO of US Hybrid Corp., called energy one key solution to reducing emissions caused by the excessive traffic jams that plague much of the nation, particularly Southern California.

He said electric vehicles could provide a 15% efficiency improvement over natural gas powered vehicles in drayage operations. 

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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