On May 13th UPS announced the purchase of 200 hybrid-electric and 300 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, further adding to what is the largest “green” or alternative fuel commercial fleet in the industry (see my recent post about the UPS Telematics program). The purchase of 500 new alternative-fuel vehicles will grow that fleet 30% from 1,718 to 2,218 low-carbon vehicles.
On Friday I had the opportunity to speak with Robert Hall, Director of Vehicle Engineering for UPS, about this latest expansion and the general philosophy that drives UPS in alternative fuel vehicles.
Hall explained that momentum for developing hybrid technology in light-duty cars (and some light trucks) is driven due to the current consumer marketplace and economies of scale, providing incentive for manufactures to push forward with R&D and marketing.
With medium and heavy-duty trucks, the incentive to develop hybrid and other alternative fuel technology doesn’t exist as it does in consumer markets. UPS, says Hall, sees their role as helping to pull forward alternative fuel technology for larger commercial vehicles, providing incentive for continued R&D through their demonstrated commitment to expand the UPS alternative fuel fleet.
While he didn’t exactly discuss it on these terms, Hall explained how this commitment works for UPS on a double bottom line: The expense of alternative fuel fleet expansion is justified through lower fuel costs and continually improved technology, which helps keep customer costs down and substantially reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption.
The 200 HEV trucks will be deployed in 2009 and save UPS 176,000 gallons of fuel per year, reducing CO2 emissions by 1,786 metric tons.
UPS began extensive testing of Compressed Natural Gas vehicles in 1989 and now operates one of the largest CNG fleets in the world. CNG is a burns cleaner than diesel, significantly reducing emissions of particulates, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. The latest acquisition of CNG vehicles will be deployed later this year.
Hall made clear that UPS prides itself in its sustained commitment to innovation within the industry. Since the 1930’s, when UPS used electric vehicles in New York City, Hall says the company has worked hard to remain an industry leader in alternative fuel vehicle technology and advanced business operations.
The philanthropic UPS Foundation was founded in 1951
UPS is traded on the Dow Jones and FTSE4Good Sustainability Indexes