UPS Delivers with New Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

UPS Delivers with New Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

By John Addison. Millions of last minute shoppers used UPS to get their gifts delivered on time. The snow storms did not stop UPS. On December 22, I skipped the hour line at the post office, which was open on Sunday, instead shipping via UPS. I got my gifts to my brother by December 24.

Delivery giant UPS helps people drive less. UPS delivers over 16 million packages per day to over 200 countries. 70 percent of its volume is commercial; 30 percent residential. UPS operates nearly 100,000 ground vehicles, 600 airplanes, 3,000 facilities, and employs over 400,000 people. Teams of experts at UPS reduce the cost and fuel usage of moving millions of packages.

UPS began testing natural gas vehicles in 1989. At its peak, it had over 1,000 CNG delivery vehicles, achieving impressive reduction in particulate, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions. Today, however the natural gas fleet is slowly being replaced with more efficient vehicles fueled with ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD).

In addition to CNG, 11 LNG tractors operate in the UPS West Coast fleet, hauling more than 31,000 packages a day. Because of its density, LNG is a viable alternative fuel source for large trucks that need to go long distances before stopping to refuel. UPS owns over 11,000 tractor trailers

UPS first put a hybrid-electric delivery van into operation in 1998. Although UPS has experienced over a 40% improvement in fuel economy with 50 hybrid-electric delivery vehicles, a new type of hybrid may be even better.

UPS will deploy two new hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHV) in Minneapolis during the first quarter of 2009. The additional five HHV’s will be deployed later in 2009 and early 2010. The Navistar delivery truck uses an Eaton hydraulic hybrid drive system with the diesel engine in series. The vehicle uses hydraulic pumps and hydraulic storage tanks to capture and store energy, similar to what is done with electric moEaton Series Hydraulic Hybrid Drive Systemtors and batteries in a hybrid electric vehicle. The engine periodically recharges pressure in the hydraulic propulsion system. Fuel economy is increased in three ways: vehicle braking energy is recovered; the engine is operated more efficiently, and the engine can be shut off when stopped or decelerating. Eaton Hybrid Systems

Eaton Series Hydraulic Hybrid Drive System

The EPA estimates that when manufactured in high volume, the added costs of the hybrid components can be recouped in less than three years through lower fuel and brake maintenance costs. Eaton began working on hydraulic hybrid systems with the EPA in 2001. Eaton CEO Alexander Cutler stated, “The market for this technology is truly global, and it can provide significant improvements in fuel economy and emission reductions for trucks, buses and off-road vehicles of many shapes and sizes.” Eaton offers light-duty and medium-duty hydraulic hybrid systems, as well as a range of electric-hybrid drive systems. For example, Waste Management will use Eaton’s hydraulic system in 4 parallel-hybrid Peterbilt 320 waste collection trucks. Greencar Congress

Calstart, a leading non-profit group in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, has facilitated a number of government-private partnerships in developing heavy-duty hybrid vehicles. Calstart’s Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) selected Hybra-Drive Systems to build three large Class 6 trucks for road testing that incorporate the firm’s approach to the promising hydraulic hybrid technology. UPS, FedEx Ground and Purolator will each test one identical vehicle. Calstart News

In addition to the hydraulic hybrid, UPS has road-tested hydrogen fuel cell delivery trucks. UPS began deploying alternative fuel vehicles in the 1930’s with a fleet of electric trucks in New York City.

Since the 1930s, UPS has experimented with electric vehicles. It tested a plug-in hybrid van with vehicle-to-grid (V2G). UPS successfully used the energy stored in the vehicle to provide 80 percent of the electricity needed to power the local sorting facility’s conveyor system and lights. Today, UPS operates two full-size electric package cars in Manhattan, N.Y.

UPS also has two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in operation. UPS currently operates one Daimler Sprinter fuel cell van in Ontario, California and one in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fueling in Michigan is at the EPA station at its national fuel emissions laboratory. In California, UPS gets its hydrogen from the station at the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Delivery fleets are excellent early adopters of clean vehicles. UPS, FedEx, the United States Postal Service, and others are finding that hybrid technology is excellent at capturing braking energy from the frequent stops made by delivery vehicles. Plug-in hybrid Sprinter vans are achieving over 100 miles per gallon.  These major carriers all have pilot programs using electric delivery vans and trucks can be parked.

Some of their parking facilities have solar roofs so that electricity can be sold to the local utility at peak day-time rates. Electricity can then be purchased at night, at far lower rates, for vehicle charging.

UPS emitted 7.47 million metric tons of CO2 in 2007; other GHG emissions not reported (jets are responsible for emission of other GHG in addition to CO2). Over 87 percent of CO2 gas emissions were from its transportation use, rather than stationary power. Jet fuel represents 46% of U.S. Package Operations energy use; diesel 37%. Airplanes demand tremendous amounts of petroleum processed fuel and are probably responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions for the delivery giant.

UPS total GHG emissions have grown each year with increased volume of packages. To reduce emission growth UPS continues to invest in hybrid vehicles and in the replacement of older planes with newer models of Boeing 747, 757, and 767. Even on the ground, planes have big carbon footprints. UPS is starting to reduce emissions by having planes taxi with only one engine running and by using electric hookups at loading docks to run auxiliary power. UPS 2007 Environmental Report

Large carriers are more energy efficient than most individuals and businesses at moving goods and handling logistics. Some deliver letters and packages with fewer emissions than others; use of airplanes is a big factor. A nonprofit group, Climate Counts, measures corporations on a number of factors including greenhouse gas emissions and their reductions. On a scale of 1 to 100, they ranked the four leading shippers: DHL 45, the United States Postal Service 43, UPS  39, and FedEx 28.

When we read about energy independence and reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions, passenger vehicles get most of the press. In fact, it is fleets that lead in testing and improving vehicle technology. UPS has been a leader since the 1930s.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published March 25, 2009.

Walmart May Save $300 Million with Fleet Efficiency

Walmart May Save $300 Million with Fleet Efficiency

Peterbilt 386 hybrid(Updated 8/4/09; Original 3/20/07). Walmart operates 7,000 trucks that in 2005 drove 872 million miles to make 900,000 deliveries to its 6,600 stores. Wal-Mart has set a goal of doubling the fleet efficiency by 2015 from a 2005 baseline.

Wal-Mart operates the nation’s second largest private fleet. Wal-Mart is also famous for being operationally efficient. Every large fleet and logistics operator hopes to save millions by learning from Wal-Mart’s new initiatives. Wal-Mart has hundreds of hybrid passenger vehicles. Now Wal-Mart sees bigger potential savings in heavy-duty Class 8 trucks.

Wal-Mart uses a three-phase new technology deployment process, to test and pilot promising technologies, and then deploy the technologies that make economic and environmental sense.


  • In partnership with Arvin Meritor, Wal-Mart is testing a first of its kind, full-propulsion, dual-mode, diesel-electric hybrid in the Detroit area. The truck is powered solely by battery at speeds of less than 48 mph and is currently on the test track.
  • In Phoenix, Arizona, fifteen trucks are being retrofitted to run on reclaimed brown waste cooking grease from Walmart stores and will be the first of their kind.


  • Working with Eaton Corp, Wal-Mart has five diesel assist hybrid trucks in-market now. The trucks are pulling loads in Texas, California, Georgia, and Maryland.
  • In Southern California, five class 8 Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) trucks are hauling loads.


  • Walmart accelerates investments in trucking fleet efficient technologies across all new trucks:
    • Engine calibration and installing Auxiliary Power Units (APUs).
    • Addition of five-hundred new aerodynamic trucks to our fleet.
    • Trailer side skirts, Super single tires, Aerodynamic tractor package, and Tag axles.

Wal-Mart is defying the conventional wisdom that hybrid technology is of little help for large trucks that already have efficient diesel engines. Wal-Mart delivers goods from regional warehouses on an optimized route to its stores. Routes often involve heavy stop-go city driving. With hybrid technology, every touch of the brakes causes energy to be captured. Where trucks previously idled with engines running, hybrids can run all auxiliary power with the engine off, using large battery stacks for the electricity.

The Eaton heavy-duty hybrid system with idle reduction features an automated manual transmission with a parallel-type direct hybrid system, incorporating a 44 kW electric motor/generator located between the output of an automated clutch and the input to Eaton’s Fuller UltraShift transmission.

The system captures energy generated by the diesel engine and recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. That electric torque is then sent through the motor/generator and blended with engine torque to improve vehicle performance, operate the engine in a more fuel-efficient range for a given speed and/or operate only with electric power in certain situations.

The system’s batteries power the heating, air conditioning and vehicle electrical systems while the engine is off. When the idle reduction mode is active, engine operation is limited to battery charging, an automatically controlled process that takes approximately five minutes per hour to fully charge the system. With a successful test and evaluation program, the heavy-duty hybrid electric power system will be available in 2009.

Wal-Mart Transportation is also evaluating an ArvinMeritor hybrid dual-mode diesel-electric tractor prototype. It will be based on an International Class 8 ProStar tractor and powered by a Cummins engine. ArvinMeritor will provide the tandem axle, regenerative braking system, air disc brakes and advanced ABS with integrated stability control and driver assistance systems, software, electronic controls, transfer case, motors, as well as the battery power.

“ArvinMeritor is a leader in all areas of drivetrain and brake system development for heavy-duty commercial vehicles and is an ideal partner for Wal-Mart for the development of these dual-mode diesel-electric systems,” said Tim Yatsko, Senior Vice President of Transportation for Wal-Mart.

A big loss for Wal-Mart and all long distance truckers is that engines are left running at stops for many auxiliary needs including air conditioning, heating, running electronics inside the cab and more. Not waiting for the implementation of hybrid drive systems, Wal-Mart installed auxiliary power units on new trucks.

Wal-Mart worked with the Rocky Mountain Institute to introduce new trucks with many energy saving improvements including better aerodynamics, transmissions and tires. Wind skirts under the trailer significantly reduced wind resistance and improved mileage. Wal-Mart combined the two wheels normally seen on a rear axle into a single wheel that is not quite as wide as the sum of two wheels. This gives a smoother ride and better fuel economy from the reduced surface area and improved tire wall stiffness. Wal-Mart is also disciplined about keeping tires properly inflated.

Wal-Mart saves diesel fuel both with vehicle technology and common sense. By working with its suppliers, Wal-Mart is fitting more goods in smaller and lighter packaging. More goods move in a truck without adding weight. Fuel is saved.

Fleet efficiency is just part of part of Wal-Mart’s sustainability strategy.