DHL Express, a division of global logistics industry provider Deustche Post DHL, is emitting fewer pollutants and picking up more green points with Mother Nature, thanks to its new propane-autogas-powered vans. The 100 units — which started rolling out in September of this year in California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas — are the latest to join the company’s growing fleet of more than 4,000 alternative-fuel vehicles around the globe. With these new additions in place, the company is truly delivering the green.
Taking a Greener Route
DHL Express serves as the division of Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) responsible for express delivery, and coordinates with other logistics divisions of DPDHL. Today, the DPDHL group operates more than 4,000 alternative-fuel vehicles worldwide, and that number is growing.
Adding to the growing alt-fuel fleet total are 100 new Ford E-250 cargo vans equipped with ROUSH CleanTech propane-autogas systems, which will support DHL Express’ U.S. pickup and delivery services within California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas.
DHL said it based its decision to deploy propane autogas vehicles in markets that require a wider operating range for higher-mileage conditions.
The new DHL vehicles are part of the company’s comprehensive GoGreen program, which aims at adding fuel-efficient, hybrid, electric, or aerodynamically modified vehicles to its fleet worldwide. In the past year, DHL has upgraded its global delivery fleet worldwide, including in several European and Asian countries, as well as in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay in the Americas.
The propane-autogas-powered E-250 vans replace similar-sized gasoline-powered models that have reached the end of their useful life, in most cases five years or more, according to John Fox, DHL Express area VP and general manager for the Southeast U.S.
According to Todd Mouw, VP of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, the two companies formally began working together to discover a solution for DHL in February of this year. DHL sent out a request for information (RFI) and included ROUSH CleanTech on the initial distribution list.
“Our network of sales executives calling on strategic public and private fleets has helped open the door to many new opportunities, including DHL,” Mouw said, noting several other fleets using the Ford E-Series platform with the ROUSH CleanTech propane-autogas fuel system installed include fleets such as SuperShuttle.
“When DHL posted their RFI, they included us in the initial distribution. The RFI was developed to help DHL learn about what alternative-fuel vehicle options exist that could apply to their fleet,” Mouw said. “Attention was given to product diversity, availability for a quick roll-out, and the availability of a robust service network. We responded with a solution that meets their needs.”
Among those needs is reducing its carbon footprint. DHL has a target goal of improving its worldwide carbon efficiency 30 percent by 2020 using 2007 levels as a baseline.
Using propane autogas is one way of getting closer to hitting that goal. DHL expects to reap significant environmental benefits, including cutting greenhouse gases by up to 25 percent, carbon monoxide by up to 60 percent, nitrogen oxide by 20 percent, and virtually eliminating particulate matter when compared to conventional fuels. Each new propane-autogas-powered van is expected to lower CO2 emissions by more than 22,587 lbs. and cut fuel costs roughly 42 percent on a per-mile basis, according to DHL’s Fox.
“We expect a 28-percent overall vehicle operating cost-per-mile improvement,” Fox said.
And, while expanding its alternative-fuel fleet drives DHL Express farther down the path leading to greater environmental sustainability, it also provides the added benefit of helping the company’s customers go green, too.
“Customers in the U.S. and worldwide are increasingly demanding greener logistics and sustainable business practices,” said Ian Clough, CEO of DHL Express U.S. “Initiatives like the propane-autogas fleet not only lower our DHL carbon footprint, but are a smart, clean, and cost-effective choice for our business.”
Dropping Off More Green
Although the roll-out of the 100 new ROUSH CleanTech vans is fairly recent, the units deployed in California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas join more than 30 other propane-autogas vehicles already operating for DHL Express in Ohio, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
“The first vehicles fueled by propane autogas (also known as liquefied petroleum gas or LPG) were introduced by 2010,” said Fox. “The initiative recently announced in the U.S. represents an extensive review before launching DHL’s first pilot of propane-autogas-powered vehicles in the U.S.”
The LPG program with dual LPG/gasoline vans was piloted earlier this year by DHL Express U.S. in partnership with its independent contractor, A Austin, in Dayton, Ohio. Leveraging its initial success, the program expanded to Tennessee and Louisiana.
The vans operating in Ohio, Tennessee, and Louisiana “all complement Deutsche Post DHL’s GoGreen program and its target to improve the company’s worldwide carbon efficiency 30 percent by 2020,” Fox observed.
Vehicles are assigned to routes based upon factors such as cargo capacity and fuel economy and may change from day-to-day or seasonally. Drivers are assigned to routes based upon customer knowledge, preferences, and/or seniority. As with each new alternative-fuel vehicle introduced within the fleet, drivers typically get a vehicle orientation before operating it.
Although it’s still too soon to get much feedback from drivers, Fox said the initial pilot program couriers noted the drive is “not surprisingly different than other gasoline-powered vehicles.” The vehicles’ quick acceleration and responsive braking also appeal to DHL’s couriers, he added.
As far as the fleet’s annual mileage, Fox said this number can vary significantly. “For the LPG vehicles, we are currently assigning a 240-mile range assumption with the tank configuration used on this vehicle type,” he said. “DHL has a wide range of operating conditions and carefully assigns our fleet of vehicles to best meet the conditions and needs of our customers. Throughout our pilot testing, DHL will be assessing many variables, including mpg and range to ensure maximum benefit.”
Fox said the company is using existing public refueling infrastructure and will be adding refueling capability at several of its service center facilities. “Propane-autogas refueling infrastructure is substantially less complicated to own and operate than traditional underground gasoline/diesel tanks,” he said, noting that the onsite stations will help improve driver convenience and efficiency — as well as the company’s emergency operations preparedness.
DHL has identified multiple options for each of the eight pilot states operating propane-autogas vehicles.
“We are evaluating those options to determine which locations may benefit from investing in onsite refueling infrastructure versus where we are best situated to share existing refueling facilities,” Fox explained.
In the meantime, thousands of stations across the nation offer public refueling infrastructure for propane autogas.
Plugging in to More Options
Propane autogas is not the only route DHL Express has taken to operate more ecofriendly vehicles.
The company that eventually merged with DHL — Deutsche Post — started using its first electric vehicles in the 1990s.
In the U.S., DHL Express currently operates 30 American-made, battery-powered electric vans and 50 hybrid trucks in New York that cut down fossil-fuel use and CO2 emissions by more than 50 percent each year in comparison to conventional vehicles. In September 2011, DHL Express rolled out the “all-green” fleet of commercial delivery vehicles in Manhattan to help reduce its impact on the city’s environment. Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, announced the company’s initiative in New York City as he presented the first vehicles in the 80-unit fleet.
The multimillion-dollar investment in the modern, environmentally friendly vehicles is an integral part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group’s global GoGreen strategy.
According to Fox, the energy source for the battery-powered vehicles is complemented by wind renewable energy attributes, supplied from the local electricity grid.
The two green vehicle types in use in DHL Express’ Manhattan fleet are manufactured in the U.S. and combine Balance Hybrid Electric vehicle components with hybrid powertrains. DHL’s existing Ford E-450s were converted into hybrids, improving vehicle fuel economy by up to 40 percent while reducing emissions by about 30 percent.
The Ford Transit Connect vans feature an advanced lithium-ion battery, travel up to 80 miles on a single charge, and can be recharged overnight. The Transit Connect Electric is virtually silent, thus reducing exterior and interior noise, and has zero tailpipe emissions.
Snapshot of DHL express
DHL Express serves as the division of Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) responsible for express delivery. Overall, DHL serves some 120,000 locations in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. Besides its express delivery operations, DHL offers supply chain management and freight forwarding services. In early 2009, DHL Express in the U.S. strategically focused its entirety on its international offerings, exclusively providing U.S. import and export services for its customers.
Other facts about the company:
● Origin: DHL was founded and established in the U.S. in 1969. DHL stands for
the initials of the last names of its three founders (Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom,
and Robert Lynn).
● Headquarters: Bonn, Germany; Plantation, Fla. (U.S.).
● Express U.S. Employees: 5,100.
● Total Global Fleet: Approx. 31,000.
● Express U.S. Service Centers: 92.
● U.S. Gateways and Hub: 5.
● U.S. Drop-off Locations: More than 3,600.
● Global Operations: Approximately 275,000 employees worldwide.
● Global Facilities: Approximately 4,100.
● Main Regional Hubs: Amsterdam; Bergamo, (Italy); Brussels; Copenhagen, Denmark;
East Midlands (UK), Frankfurt (Germany); London; Paris; Vitoria (Spain); Bangkok;
Singapore; Kingdom of Bahrain; Dubai (UAE); Lagos (Nigeria); Panama City;
GoGreen Program Helps Deliver on Green Promise
DHL Express continues to look at ways to reduce its resource use and carbon footprint, while responding to the needs of customers who are looking for environmentally responsible shipping options. Deutsche Post DHL’s GoGreen environmental protection program is designed to minimize its business operations’ greatest impact on the environment — CO2 emissions. In addition, it is also working to limit the other environmental impacts of its business activities.
DHL GoGreen Carbon Neutral is an optional service that provides customers the estimated carbon emissions generated by transporting each shipment point to point. Customers can choose to send all or a selection of their international shipments using this service. A customer’s CO2 emissions at an account and shipment level are estimated and then offset by reinvesting in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Gold Standard (GS), or Voluntary Carbon Standards (VCS) environmental protection projects. All environmental protection projects are verified by one of the United Nation’s independent certified auditors Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS).
DHL Express U.S. has implemented several GoGreen initiatives across all U.S. sites including its service centers, hub, gateways, customer service centers, billing center, and its headquarters in Plantation, Fla. Current initiatives focus on the reduction of electricity use, recycling bins, commute-reduction programs and ridesharing, transmission of e-mail versus fax, reducing paper waste, reuse of materials, replacement of lighting with energy-efficient bulbs, independent energy audits, and recycled paper for copiers.