|Category:||Sustainability, UPS News|
|Tags:||alternative vehicles, alternative-fuel vehicles, composite material, Environment, fuel, green, Star Trek, vehicles|
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 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!
I 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.