United Parcel Service will test a fully electric medium-duty truck from Thor Trucks Inc. later this year in Los Angeles, as the logistics and transportation company explores options for alternative-fuel vehicles to cut costs and tailpipe emissions for a quarter of its fleet by 2020.
Thor, which describes itself as a Los Angeles-based transportation lab making electric trucking a reality, will provide a single Class 6 truck capable of 100 miles of range before recharging. Thor said a recharge takes 60 minutes.
“Performance is critical in our fleet,” said Carlton Rose, president of global fleet maintenance and engineering for UPS. “We are excited to get this vehicle on the road to test how it handles routes in and around Los Angeles.”
Aluminum truck body builder Morgan Olson is providing the test truck body. Thor, which recently launched its ET1 heavy-duty truck, said a 50-mile range version of what it is testing with UPS will be available commercially in early 2019.
UPS will test the Thor medium-duty truck for six months as part of its fleet. It will evaluate the truck off road for durability, battery capacity, technical integration, engineering and anything else it finds during on-road driving. UPS said it may order more of the trucks if the testing is successful.
In June, UPS ordered 950 electric delivery trucks from Workhorse Group Inc. after testing 50 Class 5 N-Gen vans earlier this year. The trucks weigh 5,500 pounds each. They are equipped with 1,000-cubic foot cargo bays and can carry about 5,000 pounds of payload. Their 60-kilowatt-hour battery packs provide up to 100 miles before recharging. The cost will be about $6 to travel 100 miles, significantly less than the cost of fuel to run gas or diesel-powered trucks.
Dakota Semler, chief executive of Thor Trucks, said securing its first collaboration with UPS was important. UPS “operates one of the most well-respected and complex fleets in the country. This is also an incredibly valuable opportunity to gain insight into what it will take to fulfill our mission of getting entire electric fleets on the road.”
UPS said it was continuing to expand its “rolling laboratory” approach to integrating electric trucks into its fleets. It has more than 300 electric vehicles and nearly 700 hybrid electric vehicles on the road in Europe and the United States. By the end of 2018, UPS will have invested more than $1 billion in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations globally since 2008.
“The underlying interest in this is to cut costs,” said Cathy Roberson, a former UPS specialist in supply chain solutions who runs logisTIcs Trends and Insights in Atlanta. “In order to remain at the top of the supply chain companies, they are going to have to cut costs. They have a transformation plan in place they are implementing. This is all part of that.”
In Europe, UPS is partnering with U.K. technology company Arrival to develop a fleet of 35 modular electric delivery vehicles for trial before the end of the year in London and Paris. The lightweight vehicles have a battery range of more than150 miles (240 kilometers) and zero tailpipe emissions. The trucks feature Advanced Driver Assistance Systems that aid driver safety and helps lower driver fatigue. Through a partnership with Daimler’s Fuso brand, UPS in June accepted delivery of a small fleet of e-Canter trucks for use in Lisbon, Portugal. They can carry up to 3.5 tons depending on body and use.
“We’ll probably see mixed fleets with different trucks used for different routes much as airlines optimize the plane used on each route based on route length, cargo and passenger capacity needs,” Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst for Navigant Research in Detroit, told Trucks.com. “It can be challenging for a pure battery electric due to the weight of the batteries which may eat into payload capability, which is just as important for this use.”