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Hey UPS – Why Not Convert 100% of Your Fleet to Alternative-Fuel Vehicles?

Nearly 2,000 strong, UPS has one of the largest private fleets of alternative-fuel vehicles. But some people ask – why not make the entire fleet of UPS trucks alternative fuel?

Good question. Here are some answers:

The technology for alternative-fuel vehicles is still evolving.

Miles driven, fuel consumed in 2009At UPS, we consider our alternative-fuel vehicle fleet a “rolling laboratory.”  It includes compressed natural gas (CNG), hybrid electric, electric and liquefied natural gas (LNG). We’re also testing hydraulic hybrid vehicles. Having a variety of vehicle types allows us to test the fleet in a variety of conditions, such as traffic, extreme climates and long distances. Because alternative-fuel technology is still relatively new, there’s some uncertainty over the vehicles’ lifespan. The current driving range of most alternative-fuel vehicles is limited – which means they cannot be used for most of UPS’s delivery routes. Investing in a diverse fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles will help us learn which vehicle types can eventually work best over a long-term period. It also supports the research conducted by manufacturers who are seeking ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Bio-fuels offer great potential for existing vehicles.

The technology behind bio-fuels is still emerging. But one day, bio-fuels may be compatible with our existing combustion engines. UPS Airlines recently added a blend of bio-fuel to power ground equipment that help load and transport cargo. Our hope is that we’ll be able to increase our reliability on the fuel as an energy source for other parts of our fleet. For some, bio-fuels are a provocative topic and UPS has a detailed view point which you can read at our Pressroom site.

Airline fuel efficiency beats 2011 goal, new goal set.The current fueling infrastructure for alternative-fuel vehicles is limited.

Where can we fuel the vehicles? This is a crucial factor to consider. Fuel for some of these vehicles requires specially-constructed stations and right now, the infrastructure is lacking. It takes money, technical capabilities and time to properly build a network of fueling stations to support a large fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles.

Alternative-fuel fleets can’t be the complete answer.

Many people assume that a 100% alternative-fuel fleet would dramatically reduce UPS’s carbon footprint. In fact, gasoline and diesel vehicles represent only 37% of our total emissions. So it’s important that we continue to focus on fuel conservation, smart routing to reduce miles driven, new technologies, and fuel-efficiency improvements with our air fleet (which represent 53% of our emissions).

The technology for alternative-fuel vehicles holds a lot of promise. In the meantime, we’ll continue testing and learning … and adding to our fleet.

Category: Sustainability
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    Comments [2]

  1. My wife works for UPS at the West Sacramento hub. We purchased a Nissan Leaf in April and she has driven it the 90+ mile round trip a few times, but it leaves no room for error with the range, so she asked about having a plug available at work so she could plug in each day. It would be a significant gas and pollution savings to drive the electric car every day instead of the gas car. An industrial/commercial grade L2 evse would be great, but even a simple 120v outlet would be enough to create the comfort level. It could be a good advertising campaign to say that UPS workers are driving electric. Just wondering if there is any hope to be able to get this accomplished.

    Great to see so many delivery trucks are switching to alternate fuel. Delivery trucks that never leave a big city should benefit from electric drive.

  2. Thanks for you comment. I reached out for our Sustainability team to get insights on your request and passed it on. Here’s what I learned. On the surface, offering charging stations may seem pretty simple but actually presents a variety of complexities. These include having an infrastructure of electric outlets that employees can easily access in a parketing lot and the level of electricity required and its associated costs. Also we need to think about issues around fairness for our employees to ensure we can offer it to all employees who want to “plug in”. With nearly 2000 operating facilities, it would be challening and expensive to scale this offering across our company. They’ve also had reports from other companies who have had issues with some of the equipment since installation. That said, it is good to hear that employees are thinking about how they can make a difference in this area. Thanks again.

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