Lessons learned from UPS London experiments with e-trucks

New brown vans gliding through the streets of London are part of a plan by UPS to electrify its full central London fleet of 170 vehicles. UPS has converted about one-third of its diesel vehicles to electric vehicles. UPS executives say that through their experiments, they have solved issues like high costs and putting too much strain on the power grid.

UPS may be able to run its whole fleet on electricity as economically as on diesel. “We are approaching the point where the cost of deploying an electric vehicle into our operations, including the power supply requirements, will match or beat deploying a diesel,” Mr. Peter Harris, director of sustainability for UPS Europe, said to New York Times.

Reaching that point would be a “game changer” for businesses like UPS because switching to electric vehicles would not only meet environmental goals but also be “the commercially advantageous thing to do.”

Switching to electric vehicles is not simple

Fleet vehicles like those that parcel companies operate are logical candidates for e-mobility because they stick to similar daily routes, only go limited distances and come home to the same depot. Yet making the switch to electricity has proved challenging and expensive to UPS.
Delivery trucks that meet UPS standards were not readily available, forcing UPS to convert diesel trucks to electricity.
In addition, the power grids are not robust enough to meet the demand for electricity that large numbers of trucks plugging in at once might create. The limit for UPS was about 65 vehicles. Even that maximum was a stretch because the UPS also needs electricity for conveyor belts and heating at the depot.

Smart charging

UPS is now using a ‘smart grid’ to manage charging vehicles at the depot. UK Power Networks Services installed a system that uses software to monitor how much electricity is needed for charging vehicles and to spread it out through the night so that no additional power upgrades around the depot were required. The power system also includes a large battery as backup.

UPS has engaged Arrival to develop a new fleet of lightweight electric trucks for trials in London and Paris. UPS says these vehicles will be designed for city logistics with safety features so that drivers can more easily spot pedestrians and cyclists.

Source: New York Times

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