As EVs and Hybrids Find Use in New York City
DHL is working two separate LPG-propane initiatives, for both new vehicles and retrofits, as it maintains a fleet of 80 electric drive vehicles in the New York City area.
The delivery firm is finding that electric drive works for urban duty, and that fossil fuel is better where there is less population density. Propane, says DHL Express U.S. fleet director Greg Miller, combines low fuel prices and reduced emissions with a more available infrastructure and economical vehicle systems than compressed natural gas.
“All of the alternative fuel technologies have somewhat of a drive cycle niche,” he says. “Propane has some unique advantages. It really fits well outside of the major metropolitan markets.”
“Propane autogas,” the firm said last year, “has the largest public refueling infrastructure of all alternative transportation fuel options.” DHL uses available infrastructure to fuel its propane vehicles, and in some cases has set up its own fueling. This works well where the company operates propane forklifts, Miller says.
ROI is Key to Propane Upfit Decision
DHL last year deployed 100 new Ford E-250 vans with Roush CleanTech upfits for dedicated propane autogas operation. The subcontractor-operated vehicles are in Dallas, Houston, Kansas City. Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and San Diego. A “phase two analysis,” which could lead to many more trucks, was just completed, Miller says.
Separately, with bids due January 25, Roush and others are vying to convert the 5.4-liter V-8 gasoline engines of existing E-450 chassis trucks with Morgan Olson to propane. DHL is demanding an unprecedented level of “scientific” Return on Investment information, Miller says, to determine whether to go ahead with the retrofit project. It could affect 200 to 300 vehicles this year.
All in all, several thousand DHL vehicles could be running on propane as the fleet turns over.
Azure Electrics in New York
In New York City, DHL has switched to electric drive, having begun the deployment of Ford-chassis trucks in spring 2011 as part of a company-wide initiative dubbed GoGreen (F&F, April 11, 2011).
DHL has 30 Ford Transit Connect compact vans converted to pure battery electric operation by the now-shuttered Azure Dynamics, and 50 Balance parallel hybrid step vans, also by Azure, on the Ford E-450 chassis. Nine of the Balance step vans are deployed in New Jersey.
Under GoGreen, DHL parent Deutsche Post aims to improve worldwide carbon efficiency 30% by 2020, using 2007 levels as a baseline.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels reportage