UPS Goes Down Electric Path To Save

UPS electrifying with new delivery truck fleet

Parcel delivery and logistics company UPS plans to deploy 50 electric delivery trucks as part of its fleet of brown vehicles, a move it expects could give a boost to adoption of electric vehicles across the industry.

I a  recent announcement UPS said the trucks – which it is partnering with electric vehicle manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc. to design — will be comparable in cost to regular trucks, without any subsidies.

The electric delivery trucks are expected to have a range of about 100 miles (160km) between charges, which UPS said is enough for many of its city delivery routes.

The company plans to test the vehicles on urban routes in Atlanta — mostly downtown, as well as in Dallas and Los Angeles, with the potential for a larger fleet starting in 2019.

The company has about 35,000 diesel or petrol trucks that are about the same size and used on routes short enough for the range of the electric vehicles.

Scott Phillippi, a senior director of maintenance and engineering at UPS, said he thinks UPS’s size “can drive the industry for adoption,” and that its partnership with companies is “basically a stamp of approval for other companies to adopt that technology.”

The electric trucks are expected to be cleaner and quieter, with an operation cost less than similar diesel or petrol-fueled trucks.

UPS previously partnered with Workhorse on test projects including a package delivery by drone from a truck, and already has some Workhorse vehicles in its fleet.

By working with the company on design of the new trucks, UPS expects to take advantage of composites to lighten the vehicles and add safety features like collision mitigation, emergency braking and cameras, Philippi said.

“It’s an economic benefit and an environmental benefit at the same time,” he said. Along with charging infrastructure to reduce range limitations, “That’s where we need to be to start seeing large-scale adoptions.”

UPS says it operates one of the largest private fleets of alternative fuel and advanced technology fleets in the United States, including electric, hybrid, ethanol, natural gas and propane vehicles. It already has about 300 electric vehicles and 700 hybrid electric vehicles as part of roughly 9,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles in its “Rolling Lab” fleet. UPS also recently pre-ordered 125 electric Tesla semi-trailer trucks.

But the prospect of getting the cost of electric delivery trucks down to a level comparable to conventional trucks is an industry first, according to UPS.

Workhorse Group CEO Steve Burns in a written statement said his company’s goal is “to make it easy for UPS and others to go electric by removing prior roadblocks to large scale acceptance such as cost.”

By 2020, UPS aims for a quarter of its new vehicles purchased to be alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicles.

Ultimately, the rolling laboratory approach means that not all of the alternative fuel vehicles may end up in mass deployment. But, “it gives us the ability to make better decisions,” Philippi said.