The first commercial package delivery “truck” in America was a wagon pulled by mules or oxen, depending upon the route and the load. Even then, the debate was hot over the relative merits of various powertrains and wagon designs.
Some 200 years later, the quest for the perfect package delivery vehicle continues. The technologies have come a long way, but the desire for efficient, dependable, clean transport remains. For 21st century fleets, that will increasingly mean some sort of hybrid-electric power. Diesel-electric, gasoline-electric, and even all-electric vehicles are showing up in fleets around the world.
FedEx Corp.'s existing diesel-electric hybrids, for instance, have already logged more than 2 million mi. According to FedEx, the hybrids produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and cut particulate emissions by 96% while improving fuel economy 42%.
For urban delivery fleets that make plenty of stops, all-electric, plug-in vehicles will be making their debut soon. An all-electric van dubbed the Quicksider is currently under development by ArvinMeritor and partner Unicell with the assistance of Purolator Courier of Canada, for whom the truck is being designed.
The Quicksider, which has an operating range of about 40 mi. on a single charge, is intended for urban routes with about 80 to 150 stops. Instead of a combustion engine, differential and transmission, sodium nickel chloride batteries provide electric power, and individual electric motors at each rear wheel, called “drive corner modules,” deliver that power to move the vehicle.
While reducing or eliminating tailpipe emissions is arguably the biggest step toward creating a green package delivery truck, that still leaves inefficiencies on the table that contribute to pollution and reduce profit, too. Expect to see improvements in truck interior design to maximize cargo capacity, for instance, as well as systems to automate and improve the loading and unloading process.
Green delivery vehicles will also be packed with technology onboard and off to eliminate wasted space and wasted miles. That means route and load optimization software, navigation systems with real-time traffic information, and automated dispatch. To keep trucks operating at peak efficiency, engine control modules and other onboard sensors will monitor the vehicle's systems and the drivers' performance to keep each vehicle on the road in the “green zone” at all times.
Package delivery fleets will be looking at every stop for additional opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint, as well. That will mean virtually no engine idling during stops and even possible incentives for customers that can help streamline their loading/unloading process.
Green vehicles will be the most visible aspect of an increasingly green business. Package delivery providers will use these green vehicle credentials to attract customers who share their philosophy and are willing to participate as partners, even paying a premium for the benefits associated with doing business with a green fleet.