By on February 22, 2018

Image: UPS

UPS, the package delivery company best known for shorts that don’t reach nearly as far down the thigh as its drivers might prefer, wants fewer emissions from its fleet of signature brown delivery vans. It also doesn’t want to pay more for clean vehicles than it has to.

In an announcement Thursday, the company says its partnership with Ohio’s Workhorse Group — a company known for its EV pickup — will yield a delivery truck that doesn’t burn fossil fuels or cost any more than a conventional rig, even without government subsidies. Via a 50-strong fleet of experimental trucks, UPS and Workhorse plan to work out the bugs and create a vehicle for industry-wide adoption.

UPS is no stranger to green vehicles. In addition to its massive fleet of gasoline and diesel-powered trucks, the company’s “Rolling Lab” consists of 9,000 alternative-fuel vehicles, most of them CNG or propane models. Some 300 electric delivery vehicles ply the roads in Europe and the United States, joined by 700 hybrids. There’s even an order placed for 125 Tesla Semi trucks.

What UPS really wants, however, is a new Class 5 truck that’s fully electric and doesn’t cost extra to add to the fleet. The early examples of Workhorse’s cab-forward model, slated for delivery this year, supposedly run 100 miles between charges. This makes them useful for in-town deliveries — where a conventional vehicles suffer high fuel consumption and emissions. Engine noise, especially with diesels, is another consideration.

Based on observations during real-world use, the companies plan to “fine-tune the design in time to deploy a larger fleet in 2019 and beyond,” UPS stated. As for what the thing looks like, there’s only the very sexy rendering seen above. Use your imagination to fill in the blanks.

“This innovation is the result of Workhorse working closely with UPS over the last 4 years refining our electric vehicles with hard fought lessons from millions of road miles and thousands of packages delivered,” said Steve Burns, CEO of Workhorse Group. “Our goal is to make it easy for UPS and others to go electric by removing prior roadblocks to large scale acceptance such as cost.”

Given the cost of fuel and the complexity of an internal combustion drivetrain, UPS anticipates lower operating costs on top of the same-as or lower cost of acquisition. The company figures it could replace up to 35,000 vehicles in its fleet with this particular model. What’s the rush, you ask? The company, in a fit of stewardship, has promised that 25 percent of the vehicles it purchases in 2020 will be alternative-fuel models.

If delivery trucks are your secret passion, keep an eye out. The experimental fleet of 50 Workhorse models will first hit the road in Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

[Image: UPS]

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28 Comments on “Brown Is the New Green: UPS’ Electric Truck Order Heralds a Larger, Cheaper EV Fleet...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I’m behind EVs in this application, good for UPS. If one of those brown vans blows by my R/T it might even make me look at a Tesla…just kidding, ‘ain’t gonna happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Another application I’d like to see is garbage pickup.

      My city has private garbage collection, so there are 5 garbage trucks which come down my street on trash day, when one or two would do the job. The wastefulness of this system bugs me anew every week. (I’m generally pro-business and pro-market, but this is one case where I’d rather just pay taxes.)

      Electric trucks would be quieter, and would have NIMBY benefits WRT the smoke from barely-maintained diesel engines.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    Electric trucks or vans for local delivery are not exactly a new idea.

    https://comeheretome.com/2010/04/26/swastika-laundry-1912-1987/

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Perfect application for the platform; excellent to see the work taking shape.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It depends on the route.

      In town, in the city, this may work. But out in suburbia, rural areas, range anxiety would kick in again for the drivers. Some UPS and FedEx drivers rack up more than 300 miles each day on their runs in MY area.

      And what are they going to do about all those air-freighters they fly every night. Carbon footprint much?

      I bet one flight by one of their 747 air freighters would spew as much pollution as 1000 ICE delivery trucks on their routes.

      • 0 avatar
        kcflyer

        “I bet one flight by one of their 747 air freighters would spew as much pollution as 1000 ICE delivery trucks on their routes.”

        I’ll take that bet.

        In the meantime I will continue to enjoy overnight and two day delivery on pretty much anything I order online. This of course would not be possible without air freight. Nor will I book passage on the QE2 for my next transoceanic trip. When Boeing, Airbus, et el start making a flying Prius I’m sure it will catch on. Until then, modern jets continue to use less fuel and produce lower emissions with each successive generation. They do this buy using lighter weight materials and more efficient engines than their predecessors. They do this because it saves money. If you have a batter solution please bring it to market, the world awaits.

      • 0 avatar
        2manycars

        “Carbon footprint” is not an issue since CO2 is not a pollutant. I certainly am not willing to take any action to reduce my own. (When government goons and environmentalist wackos try to nudge me in that direction I push back hard the other way.)

        The real benefit to electric vehicles is low maintenance and operating costs versus fossil-fuel vehicles. (That’s the only thing that would interest me, and ultimately that’s what any business would be after.) Any alleged environmental benefits are highly suspect and irrelevant.

      • 0 avatar
        junkandfrunk

        But see, the green revolution is not at all about reducing carbon footprint, or the environment. It’s all about saving companies money, and making them more. If GE is able to cut their costs by 5% by “going green” and then turns around and sells an LED lightbulb to the consumer that’s 5% more expensive than a normal one, they’ve increased their own profit by 10%. It’s good for the consumer because we spend less money over the product’s life time, and good for the company because they earn and keep more money overall.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        Yeah, you’ll loose that bet many times over HDC. Read up on emissions control tech on modern turbofan engines – you’ll be surprised how clean they are, relative to ground transportation.

        BTW, most nights there are FedEx DC-10s and UPS 767s flying over your neck of the woods that are practically empty, ready to “sweep” down to recover freight in ABQ, PHX and ELP (should the regularly-scheduled planes be grounded for maintenance) before heading east to their respective hubs. Such waste, right?!?!

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        “I bet one flight by one of their 747 air freighters would spew as much pollution as 1000 ICE delivery trucks on their routes.”

        Right, but how many more packages can you fit on a plane vs a truck? Plus the bulk of their packages aren’t going on planes anyway.

        “It depends on the route.” Which is why you probably won’t be seeing any of these trucks soon. UPS will deploy this on routes where it makes the most sense… obviously if range anxiety is a factor on a route they will go gas.

      • 0 avatar
        TCragg

        As a former UPS driver and manager, I can comment here. You are correct about the unsuitable nature of these vehicles outside of major metros. I ran several delivery centres where daily mileage in excess of 400 km (250 miles) wasn’t uncommon. This will work great in New York, DC, Toronto, etc., or on tight industrial runs with low miles (there are a lot of those). Not so much in the extended areas where miles are high and stop density is low. Guess I’ll hang on to my stock a little longer!

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I love this. Shrink it down for the USPS next and we have a real winner.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I thought their hydraulic hybrid idea was pretty cool.

    https://www.wired.com/2008/10/ups-hydraulic-h/

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I can’t find the reference, but I think they’ve even played with compressed air and kinetic setups. UPS is no stranger to experimenting with alternative propulsion.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    UPS isn’t afraid to look at alternatives, that’s for sure.
    The truck delivering in my ‘hood was a Cummins 6 cyl diesel model for years, now they’re using GM 6.0 LS V8 gassers. I’m assuming the high initial cost and maintenance on the EPA spec diesels combined with the much cheaper gasoline cost makes that the hot setup right now.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    “a 50-strong fleet of experimental trucks”

    “the company’s “Rolling Lab” consists of 9,000 alternative-fuel vehicles, most of them CNG or propane models. Some 300 electric delivery vehicles ply the roads in Europe and the United States, joined by 700 hybrids. There’s even an order placed for 125 Tesla Semi trucks.”

    “The company figures it could replace up to 35,000 vehicles in its fleet with this particular model.”

    Pfftt, obviously just virtue signalling.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      To me CNG seems to be THE fuel to replace diesel or gasoline in delivery vehicles.

      But CNG does not contain as much energy as gasoline or diesel.

      If they really want to reduce emissions, they could mount a carbon and NOX filter trap at the end of the tailpipe.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        What form would the carbon and NOX filter take?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        CNG would be good on long-haul trucks.

        I live in a compact city surrounded by an ocean of cornfields, and a 100-mile delivery truck would be perfect here.

        Running the rural routes on old-tech engines, and using EVs on the routes which fit their capabilities (in exchange for fuel / maintenance / NIMBY benefits) seems pretty reasonable.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I want to be able to extract the elemental carbon in the gasoline I buy, by simply sticking a filter in my exhaust pipe…..

  • avatar
    incautious

    I love the comment, given the complexity of the internal combustion engine. I’m a WD(warehouse distributor) and run E350 ford vans and get 450,000 plus miles on then without a rebuild.NO BS. Change the oil every 10,000 miles and plugs at 80,000. Not much maintenance cost there. When the battery pack on these UPS trucks quit at say 80 to 100 thousand miles on these UPS truck and has to be replaced at cost of what 20 thousand dollars and up, then what. There goes most the cost savings from not buying gasoline. Never mind the electric bill which will be hundreds of thousands more. I’m all for clean air but if UPS thinks that the are going to save money on this well time will tell. Leaf owners are already finding out about this little tidbit.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    “When the battery pack on these UPS trucks quit at say 80 to 100 thousand miles on these UPS truck and has to be replaced at cost of what 20 thousand dollars and up, then what. There goes most the cost savings from not buying gasoline. Never mind the electric bill which will be hundreds of thousands more. I’m all for clean air but if UPS thinks that the are going to save money on this well time will tell.”

    Gosh, if only UPS had your smarts and had thought to do the calculation.

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