UPS moved Tuesday to add range to its burgeoning fleet of hybrid-electric delivery trucks.

The shipping giant announced at the 2016 Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach that it has worked with truck vendor Workhorse Group to use a new drive system that will allow its vehicles to go farther before charging and refueling.

It is swapping out a four-cylinder engine for a smaller two-cylinder motor. The new engine will act as generator extending the range of the vehicle and improving fuel efficiency.

“This new system enables the vehicle to accommodate UPS’s typical route on battery energy and uses a very small internal combustion engine to add additional energy to the batteries when and if needed and eliminates range anxiety,” said Steve Burns, chief executive of Workhorse.

Last year, UPS ordered 125 hybrid-electric delivery trucks and an additional 18 E-100 all-electric trucks in a deal worth about $7 million.

UPS Hybrid Delivery Truck Chasses

UPS hybrid-Electric delivery truck (Jerry Hirsch/Trucks.com)

“These low-emission trucks are designed specifically to meet the stop and start needs of UPS’s urban delivery routes,” Burns said.

UPS asked Workhorse to equip the vehicle with “different and better engines” than were originally specified, said Kristen Petrella, spokeswoman for UPS.

“As part of our Rolling Laboratory, we are always testing different types of vehicles and we are working with Workhorse to produce a vehicle that will have more range, better fuel efficiency and improved performance,” Petrella said.

UPS said the updated trucks will deliver significant fuel economy equivalency gains – up to four times the fuel economy of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

The vehicles will be deployed in eight states – including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio and Texas – later this year, according to UPS.

UPS is paying Workhorse Group $49,900 apiece for the trucks, according to a Workhorse Security and Exchange Commission filing.

The Workhorse deal is part of a larger UPS push into low-emission and alternative fuel vehicles.

In March the shipping company said it would spend $100 million to purchase 380 big-rig tractors fueled by natural gas and to construct 12 compressed natural gas fueling stations.

Alternative fuel vehicles now make up 6 percent of the UPS 100,000-vehicle global fleet. They have driven a 10 percent annual reduction in use of conventional fuel, said Mark Wallace, the company’s senior vice president global engineering and sustainability.

“These vehicles are a bridge to the delivery trucks of tomorrow,” Wallace said in September, when UPS placed the order.

Duane Hughes, president of Workhorse Commercial Trucks, said there will not be any additional cost to UPS to add the new sub 1.0 liter, 2-cylinder engine with its range extender technology to the hybrid-electric delivery vehicles. The vehicles will have the updated E-GENTM chassis with the integrated 650 cc engine by Workhorse.

“We can go without needing the range extender just over 60 miles on battery power, but if the route is going to be longer than 60 miles, then the system is configured to turn the range extender on at the optimal time to add the energy the vehicle needs to finish the additional miles it needs to go,” said Hughes.

Hughes said another plus to switching to the new engine with the range extender technology is the technology has already been approved by the California Air Resource Board, or CARB.

“When we add the range extender in our vehicle, in theory, it will be an easier process to get our vehicle CARB-approved,” he said.

The Workhorse deal is part of a larger UPS push into low-emission and alternative fuel vehicles.

In March, the shipping company said it would spend $100 million to purchase 380 big-rig tractors fueled by natural gas and to construct 12 compressed natural gas fueling stations.

Alternative fuel vehicles now make up 6 percent of the UPS 100,000-vehicle global fleet. They have driven a 10 percent annual reduction in use of conventional fuel, said Mark Wallace, the company’s senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability.

Workhorse, headquartered in Loveland, Ohio, is a start-up with less than two dozen employees. The company lost $9.4 million last year and collected just $140,000 in revenue. Currently, UPS is its only customer.

It is pursuing other ventures. Workhorse filed paperwork with the United States Postal Service last year as part of process to qualify as a builder for the “Next Generation Delivery Vehicle.” The USPS is expected to issue a single award in 2017 to a supplier for up to 180,000 vehicles to replace its current delivery fleet.

Farther out, Workhorse is developing technology that would allow shipping companies to use low-emission trucks in tandem with drones to create an efficient delivery system.

It worked with aeronautical engineers at the University of Cincinnati to develop a HorseFly line of drones. The all-weather HorseFly battery-powered drone will carry up to 10 pounds of cargo with a 15-mile range.

Workhorse is already testing the system, having obtained Federal Aviation Administration permits late last year to fly the drone.

Under such a system a truck driver would load packages on the drone.  It will be sent to a location just off the route, while the driver continues on the main delivery route. The drone will then rejoin the truck at its new location after its delivery is completed, saving the fleet operator much of the time and fuel cost of the last, most expensive, mile, according to Workhorse.