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.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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