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Car Trek III: The Search for MPG

In the summer of 1984, I went to the theater and saw Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. William Shatner had his T.J. Hooker hair (Happy 80th Birthday, Shat’!) and afterward I went to Taco Bell and got the collector’s glass with the U.S.S. Enterprise on it. Awesome. The movie was about a search (duh) that was risky and difficult, but the reward was an altruistic goal worth all the risks.

UPS embarks on an epic search today; “The Search for MPG.” UPS is the proving ground for five new vehicles by Utilimaster and Isuzu. These are not alternative fuel vehicles. They are diesel vehicles, but have smaller, 4-cylinder engines and lightweight composite materials to increase their fuel efficiency.

UPS Composite Package CarUPS will test them through December 2011 on the harshest routes in our U.S. network. Will these lightweight vehicles survive the rigors of deserts, mountains, back roads, snow and the constant weight of the UPS packages delivered every day? Will they endure while saving 40 percent more fuel at the same time?

Although we have 1,900 alternative fuel vehicles, none of our package car-sized AFVs are suitable for high-mile routes. Their fuel systems aren’t efficient at long ranges. Maybe the venerable diesel engine can be re-engineered to sip less fuel and lose a little weight. The composite material makes exterior parts replacement modular and could eliminate paint entirely!

UPS Composite Package CarI like this approach. You don’t abandon an old favorite if there’s still a ton of room to improve and make it even better. In UPS’s case, diesel is still the only capable option for many routes, so we’re working to make it ultra-efficient.

It’s kinda like how in Star Trek III, Scotty sees a lot of unexplored potential in the ol’ Enterprise, but the brass are telling him she’s scrap because the new Excelsior’s “transwarp” engine is the only future worth having. Then we learn the Enterprise is still the only hope for their mission, while the Excelsior can’t cut it. Granted, there was some sabotage in there somewhere…but the underlying message is the same!

That’s what UPS is doing. We’ve got Excelsiors, but we still have a lot of routes they don’t work on, so we’re upgrading our Enterprises. I know I just blew the top off my geek cred’ thermometer, but my point remains valid.

You can read more about the composite car from Environmental Leader, CNET’s GreenTech, Earth911, GreenBiz, Fast Company, Good or USA Today.

Category: Sustainability, UPS News
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    Comments [10]

  1. I really love this article, Michael. Entertaining and
    informative. And good work, UPS, on this new truck!

    • Thanks!

  2. Strong move, UPS. Even if this particular model cannot
    handle all the different extremes of your routes, don’t
    abandon the idea. You managed to make the thing a
    THOUSAND pounds lighter – surely some of that weight
    loss can be sacrificed to increase its hardiness to the
    minimum level so that it is fully usable across the world.

    Again, good work guys. :) Always thinking.

  3. “It’s kinda like how in Star Trek III, Scotty sees a lot of
    unexplored potential in the ol’ Enterprise, but the brass
    are telling him she’s scrap because the new Excelsior’s
    “transwarp” engine is the only future worth having. Then
    we learn the Enterprise is still the only hope for their
    mission, while the Excelsior can’t cut it. Granted, there
    was some sabotage in there somewhere…but the
    underlying message is the same!”

    Genius!

  4. This is great, not just for the Star Trek reference.
    Well, for that actually.

    Seriously though, the idea of shaving weight is a
    wonderful idea. Like Colin Chapman of Lotus said, ‘Add
    lightness.’

    There is a reason that I use UPS for my shipping needs,
    this just reaffirms my belief that you guys are great.

    Next you need to reference DS:9.

    • Ah yes! Colin Chapman and Lotus! They used that
      philosophy to help build my favorite car of all time – the
      DeLorean DMC-12!

      I’ll get to work on that DS-9 reference for you…
      (Hmm…does UPS have a symbiotic relationship with any
      alien entities?)

  5. What about crash tests? Also, that UPS guy in the video
    looks like Pat O’Brien. Just sayin’.

  6. Nice truck,

    how much is it consuming now? You only write about 40
    % less.
    Can you please give a hint for that.

    Thanks. Kevin

    • UPS’s current vehicles get about 10 miles per gallon.

  7. Thanks Michael,

    for that 40% sound really good. In Germany UPS uses
    Daimler trucks that reach 23 mpg with Diesel since at
    least 10 years. Good that UPS USA follows.

    Greetings from Germany, Kevin.

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