The green machines

Aug. 8, 2008
“It‘s very important to us to demonstrate our commitment with action, which is why we have the largest private ‘green‘ fleet in the industry.” -Robert Hall, director of UPS‘s ground fleet Needless to say, the battle over who has the “greenest” fleet ...

It‘s very important to us to demonstrate our commitment with action, which is why we have the largest private ‘green‘ fleet in the industry.” -Robert Hall, director of UPS‘s ground fleet

Needless to say, the battle over who has the “greenest” fleet of all is going to leave a lot of bruises all around. United Parcel Service claims that distinction at the moment, though I am sure FedEx Corp. is all but waiting in the wings to stake it‘s own green fleet claims as well.

However, regardless of who really truly has the “greenest” fleet, one thing is for sure - we‘re going to see a lot more such green commercial trucks, from diesel-electric hybrids to ones running on fuel cells, compressed natural gas (CNG) and the like hitting the road in the months and years ahead.

UPS for example, ordered 200 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and a further 300 CNG-powered trucks for its U.S. delivery fleet back in May, boosting the size of its alternative fuel fleet by 30%, from 1,718 to 2,218 units.

Philip Aiello, area automotive manager for UPS, offers further details on this big-ticket purchase in the video below:

[I‘d also like to give Phil a personal shout-out, for the last time I personally interviewed him for a story was seven years ago - June 2001 to be exact - when he worked at UPS‘s big depot in New York City. You can read that story by clicking here by the way. As you can tell from reading this, he‘s one very VERY sharp guy, so here‘s a belated congratulations on your promotion!]

“Green” trucks like these, though, are doing a couple of things here. For starters (and most obviously) they are reducing emissions of harmful pollutants, thus keeping the air cleaner and fighting climate change at the same time. More importantly, though, they may save UPS some big bucks as they will reduce fuel consumption in a huge way.

For example, those 200 hybrid electric vehicles - to be deployed in 2009 - are expected to save 176,000 gallons of fuel annually and reduce CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions by 1,786 metric tons each year: the equivalent of removing almost 100 conventional UPS trucks from the road for a year. They join some 50 HEVs already in operation.

(A diesel-electric hybrid at work for UPS.)

“Alternative fuel research and development is just one of the ways that UPS is mitigating climate change risks,” said Bob Stoffel, UPS‘s corporate sustainability officer. “We also are focused on aggressive conservation programs and improving network efficiency to cut fuel use.”

The 300 CNG vehicles will be deployed later on in 2008 and join more than 800 such vehicles already in use by UPS in the U.S. They are expected to yield a 20% reduction in emissions over the cleanest diesel engines available today and - as they don‘t use diesel fuel at all - should help cut Big Brown‘s fuel bill even further.

(One of UPS's CNG trucks on its route.)

The chassis for the CNG and HEV trucks are being purchased from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., with Eaton Corp. supplying the hybrid power system for the HEVs. The truck bodies are identical externally to the signature “brown” trucks that now comprise the UPS‘s delivery fleet, so they‘ll feature additional script markings to identify them as CNG and HEV vehicles.

This CNG/HEV vehicle order follows the April 2008 deployment of 167 new CNG vehicles in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Ontario, San Ramon, Fresno and Sacramento, joining those 50 hybrid electric delivery trucks operating in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix that‘ve been in service since May 2007.

[There are, of course, more immediate ways to start saving on fuel -- as one of UPS's drivers explains below:]

FedEx, of course, is no slouch in the “green” truck arena, either. Its global hybrid truck fleet has accumulated over two million miles of revenue service as of April this year, with hybrid propulsion improving truck fuel economy by 42%, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 30% and cutting particulate pollution by 96%.

With 10 new hybrid vehicles introduced into its FedEx Express European operations in June, the company continues to make strategic investments in projects designed to drive the development of new innovative technologies for the transportation industry.

“We continue our work with manufacturers to bring hybrid-electric vehicles that are clean, affordable and widely available to market because the benefits will make sense for the environment and business,” said Mitch Jackson, FedEx‘s director of environmental Affairs and sustainability. “[We‘ve] been very happy with the operational and environmental performance of the hybrids ... and we continue to look for opportunities to introduce more fuel efficient vehicle models, including hybrids, into our fleet.”

And greater fuel efficiency in the end translates into less oil purchased from OPEC nations. Let me tell you, I REALLY like the sound of that.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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