Hybrids – Vehicles, Battery & Hydraulic Technology

FedEx Implements Green Fleet Initiative

September 2008, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Joe Bohn - Also by this author


With manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford preparing to launch production of hybrid-electric trucks, it’s only a matter of time before the technology becomes widely available in commercial fleet arena.

For Memphis-based FedEx Corp. officials, that can’t be soon enough.

"Based on our original projections and discussions with commercial vehicle manufacturers, we thought they’d be widely available by now," says Mitch Jackson, FedEx director of environmental affairs and sustainability.

FedEx has a diverse range of environmental and fuel conservation efforts reaching into all phases of its operation, such as strategic route planning and vehicle optimization — even reducing the use of in-gate aircraft auxiliary power units and replacing much of its airplane fleet.

On the truck side, the company operates alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs), such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, biodiesel-powered trucks on routes in Washington, D.C., and compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered vehicles where it has central fueling capability abroad.

But the lack of a national fueling infrastructure severely limits the company’s potential use of AFVs in the U.S., as does the lack of a national standard for biodiesel.

"We’re pleased with our biodiesel experience," says Jackson. "But it’s fuel company- and location-specific; so you run B-5 in Washington, D.C., for example, B-10 in the Midwest."

He adds, "We’ve explored how to roll it out on a more consistent basis. But with the distribution challenges and availability and varying levels of fuel, it’s really hard to go national with biodiesel."

FedEx has also teamed with General Motors to test a fuel cell delivery vehicle. But the viability and availability of such vehicles still have a fairly lengthy horizon.


Major Focus on Hybrids

Commercial hybrids have dominated the company’s attention and spearheading their ready availability is its major environmental/fuel-saving focal point.

The company actually has separate twin hybrid efforts: one aimed at commercial vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVW up to Class 6 and another at commercial vehicles in the Class 6-7 range.

FedEx Express overnight delivery operations in Memphis has been working with several manufacturers, including Eaton Corp., Isuzu, Iveco, and Azure Dynamics, whose hybrid system is used by Ford, to promote hybrid-electric use in vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVW.

Meanwhile, FedEx Ground operations in Pittsburgh, with its parcel post-type delivery, has been working with Parker Hannifin Corp. to test hybrid hydraulic technology in heavier Class 6 vehicles.

"We did that by intent to focus the technology developments by company operation," Jackson says.

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