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Customers Ask: Where are UPS’s Alternative-Fuel Vehicles?

Sunny Nastase has an interesting job. She serves as UPS’s Vice President of Customer Solutions. Sunny talks with customers every day about the company’s range of environmentally-progressive services – such as carbon neutral shipping and our Eco Responsible Packaging Program.

Two common questions that customer ask Sunny concern UPS’s green fleet:

If UPS has nearly 2,000 alternative-fuel vehicles, where are they?

And why don’t these vehicles show up everyday at my company’s dock or doorstep?

The answer has a lot to do with science and logistics. Here’s what we consider when deciding where to deploy our alternative-fuel vehicles:

Where can we fuel the vehicles?

For the types of cars that most people drive, gas stations are as abundant as fast-food restaurants. That’s not the case with commercial alternative-fuel vehicles. For instance, UPS’s new LNG tractors run on liquefied natural gas that’s cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. The fuel requires specially-constructed stations to maintain its temperature and a unique fueling apparatus to dispense the gas. Before we deploy vehicles in a location, we need to make sure there’s a fueling infrastructure in place.

Can the engine (or fuel) operate in extreme climates?

Not all engines work well in every climate. Same goes for different types of fuel. Electric vehicles, for example, have some issues with severely cold temperatures. They require a lot of amps to run a heater in the car.

Where do we maximize cutting fuel use and carbon emissions?

Some engines perform best in highly dense, urban areas – like hybrid-electric vehicles which are ideal for traffic with frequent braking. But put these vehicles in a rural locale with long distances and you’ll actually run the risk of using more fuel. All-electric vehicles have a range limited to 100 miles or less – not a practical option for long distances. However, LNG is a great option for long-distance travel where its dense fuel can reduce emissions by 25%.

What about mechanics to support the vehicles?

Alternative-fuel vehicles have complex components that can differ from traditional combustion engines. UPS has some of the most highly-skilled mechanics in the industry, yet these engines require specialized training to service the vehicles. As we consider where to deploy alternative-fuel vehicles, we need to make certain we have mechanics on staff that are trained to support the unique features of the vehicles.

Where are the tax incentives?

Alternative-fuel vehicles can cost anywhere from 25 to 100% more than conventional vehicles. To be economically feasible, we typically place the most alternative-fuel vehicles where the incentives are.

While the question may seem simple, the answer depends on a number of factors. For the most part, UPS customers are surprised and appreciative at the level of analysis we undergo to match the right vehicles with the right environment. In the end, our goal is to save fuel, cut emissions and deliver value to our customers. That’s logistics!

Category: Sustainability
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