Telematics Learnings and Planning Take Center Stage
As Firm Increases Use of Propane and Electric Vehicles,
Strategy Includes a Breakthrough Order for Zenith Motors
It’s not so much the fuel as the way the fuel is used, says DHL Express U.S. fleet director Greg Miller. Choosing the right size vehicle, and properly engineering delivery routes are the most important techniques for improving efficiency and driving down costs and emissions: “the right vehicle in the right route and the right fuel in the right vehicle.” updated September 25 and October 25
“There’s a tremendous amount of focus and energy around the efficiency side of the business,” Miller says. Recent telematics-driven advances in data gathering, and the managing of data, are key.
More than 200 new vehicles will be joining the DHL Express U.S. fleet this year – “making it one of the newest and most modern fleets in the industry,” the company says. DHL has invested nearly $50 million in the fleet over the last two years, reducing the average vehicle age from 6.7 years in 2012 to 3.6 years today.
‘Maximize the Infrastructure that We Have’
In alternative fuels, DHL likes propane autogas (F&F, January 18, 2013). The company is also working to replace outmoded all-battery and hybrid electric vehicles, many with drivelines from the defunct Azure Dynamics, in locations including New York City. New battery electric vehicles there include Dodge-chassis delivery vans from Zenith Motors – DHL has bought 45 for New York and California.
The company wants to capitalize on investments already made, including its investments in propane fueling and EV charging.
“Our strategy is to maximize the infrastructure that we have,” Miller says. “We’re not over-complicating the business,” he told F&F. “We’re putting fuels in there that the business can accept.”
Icom and Blossman for Ford Transit Vans
DHL is testing propane autogas-fueled Ford Transit vans with liquid-injection systems from Icom North America and gaseous propane systems from Alliance AutoGas/Blossman, Miller says, in Detroit, Chicago and Elizabeth, N.J.
The company expects to be all-propane in Detroit – about 60 vehicles – by year-end, and all-propane in Chicago – about 130 vehicles – by the end of 2016. DHL and its contractors currently operate about 500 propane vehicles in the U.S.
DHL’s propane autogas targets for 2016 include Philadelphia and Cleveland. The extent of propane penetration for both depends on DHL’s equipment suppliers and the local regulatory climate, Miller says.
Nissan Leaf – and the New e-NV200?
DHL is working with Nissan and deploying the Nissan Leaf for non-delivery support functions, like customer service and security. Success with the all-battery Leaf could lead to an embrace of Nissan’s 100% battery electric e-NV200 van, which is not yet being sold in the U.S.
On the more exotic side are the possibility of propane-fueled hybrid electrics and battery electric “StreetScooter” vans from Germany.
DHL is working with an undisclosed upfitter on a gasoline-fueled hybrid electric version of the Ford Transit, Miller says, and may also try the supplier’s propane-fueled variant.
Aachen-based StreetScooter, he notes, is now a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL Group, the parent company of DHL Express U.S.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview with DHL and follow-up