As Part of Growing Trend, UPS Adds 200 Hybrid Trucks

United Parcel Service this week is rolling out 200 new hybrid gas-electric delivery trucks in eight U.S. cities. Over the course of a year, the 200 new hybrid trucks are expected to reduce fuel consumption by roughly 176,000 gallons and cutting CO2 gases by nearly 1,800 metric tons.

The move by UPS is part of a growing trend, identified in a new report from Pike Research about the global market for hybrid medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses. Pike forecasts an increase from 9,000 vehicles sold globally in 2010 to more than 100,000 vehicles in 2015.

In the U.S., Pike expects annual sales of electric-drive trucks to grow from 3,700 today to more than 30,000 in 2015. That would represent about 10 percent of the market. Dave Hurst, the author of the Pike study, told us that two-thirds of those sales will be conventional hybrids, and most of the rest will be pure electric trucks. “Plug-in hybrids are less attractive because the upfront costs are high, and there’s less saving on fuel,” Hurst said. “Fleet buyers don’t see the payback.” Hurst said that fuel costs are dramatically lower for pure electric trucks.

We spoke with Hurst to get a better understanding of the trend towards hybridizing trucks and buses.

HybridCars.com: What kind of fuel economy or emissions improvement do hybrid trucks and buses offer?

Dave Hurst: The fuel economy gains will vary substantially depending on the type of truck and its usage. Overall, the fuel economy gains can be expected to be between 5% and 50% for hybrid trucks and buses.

Is hybrid-electric the technology best suited to economical efficiency improvements?

At the moment, hybrid electric is the best suited to see a payback on the incremental costs in the truck and bus market, but payback periods on these vehicles remains relatively long, up to 10 years. As fuel costs rise, we will see the payback period reduced and the economic equation will shift more in favor of hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

Battery electric trucks will offer a very attractive economic equation in specific situations as battery costs come down in 2012 or 2013.

How long will hybrid-electric trucks be dependent on government subsidies? [Note: Federal tax credits can be $10,000 or more for a truck selling for about $100,000. With state incentives, the subsidies can cover the incremental cost of a hybrid truck compared to a conventional diesel version.]

The subsidies will continue to be very important through at least 2013 or 2014. After that, it will depend on how quickly battery costs fall. I anticipate that we may see some of the smaller trucks—roughly up to 14,000 or 16,000 pounds—tart to be viable without subsidies in 2014 or 2015, though it’s likely that the heavier duty trucks will still need subsidies.

Do you see the market for hybrid-electric trucks and buses flattening out after 2015?

It is likely to slow from its current growth rate after 2015, but I am not sure I would characterize it as flattening in 2015. As fuel and emissions control equipment costs rise mid-to-late decade, I expect that we will see continue to see growth in hybrid trucks and buses as replacements for diesels.


  • veek

    Excellent step, and one which can make e-commerce more efficient for some purchases.

    Our city has also purchased hybrid vehicles, which is a good step for citizen action (although it is still unpleasant to receive a parking ticket from a hybrid-driving parking enforcement officer :-/ ).

  • Mr. Fusion

    Go UPS!
    But how long will they hang on to those ancient truck designs?
    It will be the year 3000, cars will fly, and UPS will still be using these riveted boxes!

  • ex-EV1 driver

    This is great. The short haul delivery business is a great place for hybrids and an even better place for plug-ins since the vehicles do a lot of start-stop but generally don’t travel particularly far in a day.
    I hope they don’t go with some cheesy low-bidder scammer like many attempts to hybridize a fleet have. These tend to result in dissappointment.
    A similar, pure plug-in success has been with the Port of LA, where Balqon has provided Electric trucks for shuffling containers around the port. The port is particularly low-hanging-fruit, even for low-tech, cheap lead-acid powered vehicles because:
    - the vehicles are purpose-built already
    - excess weight from lead acid batteries is actually helpful for small trucks to tow heavy containers
    - they spend most of their time stopped, standing by for containers to be offloaded from ships
    - quick acceleration is helpful to keep loads moving
    - off-road vehicles have fewer highway safety requirements
    - the trucks are replacing old, dirty, high-maintenance diesels
    - reduced noise causes less driver fatigue
    These use AeroVironment’s fast charging posichargers to quickly charge the vehicles during natural gaps. Chargers are easily located in places where the trucks naturally stop instead of having to drive to a refuelling facility.
    There are some battery-diesel hybrid switch engines being deployed on the rails as well with the same benefits. See:
    http://www.portoflosangeles.org/newsroom/2008_releases/news_051608_et.asp
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2009/02/electric-truck.html

  • John K.

    UPS has been testing hydraulic hybrid trucks for a couple of years. I’m disappointed there is no mention of them in this article. They’re a LOT more efficient than electric hybrids and, I’d *guess*, a lot cheaper too. Why didn’t the interviewer bring them up?
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/10/ups-hydraulic-h/

  • Anonymous

    The decision of the UPS to add 200 hybrid trucks is certainly great news and I am sure that others will also follow suit and we’ll see a lot of less pollution and of course, the reduction of fuel consumption to a large extent!! It’s great that reports like those from Pike Research makes known about such trends in global markets so that we’re are able to make such innovative changes at the right time. Gps navigation

  • tapra2

    the author of the Pike study, told us that two-thirds of those sales will be conventional hybrids, and most of the rest will be pure electric trucks. “Plug-in hybrids are less attractive because the upfront costs are high, Tech Blog

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