As part of a public-private partnership to increase the commercial availability and use of alternative fuel vehicles, UPS announced earlier this week its first purchases of a little-known technology -- the hydraulic hybrid vehicle -- that promises dramatic fuel savings and environmental benefits.
The technology, originally developed in a federal laboratory of the Environmental Protection Agency, stores energy by compressing hydraulic fluid under pressure in a large chamber. UPS was the only company in its industry asked to road-test the technology two years ago and now becomes the first delivery company to place an order for hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHV).
"There is no question that hydraulic hybrids, although little known to the public, are ready for prime time use on the streets of America," said David Abney, UPS's chief operating officer. "We are not declaring hydraulic hybrids a panacea for our energy woes, but this technology certainly is as promising as anything we've seen to date."
Disclosing the results of its road testing on Detroit routes for the first time, UPS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the prototype vehicle had achieved a 45%-50% improvement in fuel economy compared to conventional diesel delivery trucks. UPS believes similar fuel economy improvements and a 30% reduction in CO2 are achievable in daily, real-world use. The EPA feels the technology can perform equally well in other applications such as shuttle and transit buses and refuse pick-up trucks.
UPS will deploy the first two of the new HHV's in Minneapolis during the first quarter of 2009. Eaton, which helped develop and refine the vehicle's hydraulic hybrid power system, will monitor the vehicle's fuel economy performance and emissions in the Minneapolis area. The additional five HHV's will be deployed later in 2009 and early 2010.
"We continue to be pleased with the progress and potential of the hydraulic hybrid system," Eaton Chairman and CEO Alexander M. Cutler said at the press conference. "The market for this technology is truly global, and it can provide significant improvements in fuel economy and emission reductions for trucks, buses and off-road vehicles of many shapes and sizes."
The EPA estimates that when manufactured in high volume, the added costs of the hybrid components can be recouped in less than three years through lower fuel and brake maintenance costs.
UPS's current "green fleet" totals more than 1,600 low-carbon vehicles, including all-electric, hybrid electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and propane-powered trucks. In addition to the hydraulic hybrid, UPS has road-tested hydrogen fuel cell delivery trucks. UPS began deploying alternative fuel vehicles in the 1930's with a fleet of electric trucks in New York City.