The tipping point is on the horizon; Walmart and UPS fleets will soon be completely electrified.

Under pressure from regulators and customers to ditch fleets that run on fossil fuels, everything from delivery vehicles to garbage trucks to school buses are struggling to figure out how to economically make the switch. Electric vehicles promise to deliver fuel savings and lower maintenance cost, but the upfront costs of electrifying a fleet can be limiting.

On the stage at VERGE conference in Oakland on Tuesday, Walmart and UPS offered some views about the struggles and lessons they learned from making a switch to electric vehicles.

Scott Phillippi, senior director of maintenance and engineering at UPS said:

“The opportunity for reducing maintenance, which we hope to see soon, hasn’t been quite determined yet. The biggest challenge is there isn’t a lot (of different classes of electric commercial trucks) to choose from. We are not quite at a tipping point.”

Pilot Project in Central London

UPS has been running a pilot project to electrify a fleet of 170 in central London, and it is nearly there. It’s installed software to monitor and spread out the charging of trucks to avoid overtaxing the power grid.

Benefits beyond fuel and maintenance

Walmart and UPS are looking for benefits beyond savings on fuels and maintenance for an electric fleet. Figuring them out helps make a stronger business case for investing in electric vehicles.

For example, using electric trucks allow UPS to avoid the fees associated on gasoline and diesel vehicles that enter the city center of London.

Walmart electric trucks open up the possibility of delivering more merchandise at night, when there is less congestion, which it currently can’t do in lots of places because of local government rules on noise.

“What we know is there’s no model that can duplicate what the real world looks like. No matter what you think or what’s been simulated, there will be problems along the way. That’s the natural path of where we are going.”   – Scott Phillippi

[via Business Green]

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1 COMMENT

  1. Big fleet orders like this will make it cheaper for other transporters to switch, it may be the bootstrap needed for the whole industry. Truck manufacturers are seriously lagging behind though, they should really get on board if they want to keep working in the truck market. It’s a pity in a way that trucks have such a long lifespan, all the retired ICE trucks will be sold second hand to small operators or foreign ones, so they’ll continue polluting for many years to come, but it’s a well-needed start, and some could even be converted to LPG or less polluting fuels.

    In any case, most urban deliveries will probably not happen by truck anymore before the end of this century. Since cities can only expand vertically and some already reached the clouds, it won’t be long before some start developing underground transportation of persons and goods, with automated deliveries from a peri-urban hub straight to your building or apartment. I don’t think there’s much of a future for driverless deliveries above ground, but they are fun experiments that can fill in the gap during this transition.

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