By Mary Mazzoni on Oct 10, 2012

UPS Rolls Out Hydraulic Hybrid Delivery Vehicles

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Photo courtesy of UPS

As one may imagine, delivery drivers assigned to urban routes spend a great deal of time stuck in traffic jams, meandering through tight corners and stopping frequently on city blocks, which hurts vehicle fuel economy and can lead to increased carbon and particulate emissions.

To decrease the environmental impact of urban delivery, UPS plans to deploy 40 hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHVs) as part of a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, the company announced last week.

Developed by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) and Parker Hannifin Corporation, the hybrid delivery vehicles can achieve up to 35 percent improved fuel economy and up to 30 percent CO2 emissions reduction over traditional diesel-powered vehicles that use automatic transmissions in stop-and-go applications.

Related: UPS Tests Super-Efficient Truck

Emissions-saving HHVs operate on two power sources – a fuel-efficient diesel combustion engine and advanced series hydraulic hybrid. Energy created by the vehicle’s continued braking action is stored in the HHV’s hydraulic high-pressure accumulator, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Through energy-storing technology, HHVs are able to capture and reuse 70 to 80 percent of the otherwise wasted braking energy, according to EPA estimates.

To further reduce fuel waste, hydraulic hybrid delivery vehicles have a function to turn off the engine and drive the vehicle using the stored energy to propel the vehicle. This engine-off strategy can reduce up to 90 minutes of engine run-time on a typical route, according to UPS.

The company already has one pilot HHV in operation in Laguna Hills, Calif. and has been working closely with manufacturers to develop and test HHV technology since 2006. Engineers will continue to monitor performance of the most recent HHV deployment in an effort to increase efficiency for a wider roll-out of hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks in the coming years, said Mike Britt, director of alternative fuel vehicle engineering for UPS.

“I’m very optimistic that the hydraulic hybrid is going to fare well in our system and our vocation,” Britt told Earth911. “We’ve been doing analysis on every mile [our HHVs] have run so far. Of course, there may be some mechanical tweaks we have to do, because it’s a new technology – not only to UPS but to our vocation.”

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The EPA estimates that the additional cost of HHV technology is about $7,000 for the UPS package car. In today’s dollars, the net lifetime savings of this technology in a typical UPS truck, which is used for 20 years, would be over $50,000. If fuel prices continue to increase faster than inflation, the lifetime savings would be even greater, proving how much impact the switch could have on both operational costs and fuel use.

UPS debuted 20 HHVs in Baltimore last Thursday, and the company plans to roll out the remaining 20 vehicles in Atlanta next month, Britt said.

You Asked, Earth911 Answered: Eco-Friendly Shipping: It Is Possible!

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