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FedEx Embarks on Hybrid Project for Delivery Vehicles - 2003-06-07

FedEx Corporation calls itself "the premier global provider of transportation." Its white pick-up and delivery trucks are seen in every corner of North America.

FedEx has joined forces with Environmental Defense and Eaton Corporation to introduce a low emission, hybrid electric-powered delivery vehicle. Elizabeth Sturcken, with the Environmental Defense group, says "it's really the first time a fleet has made a marked commitment to buy hybrids. And, if all the tests go well, and the trucks meet our project goals, we expect this to set the standard for trucks in the industry."

How good are these trucks powered by Eaton diesel engines and electric motors in tandem? "The vehicles that start hitting the road at the end of this year will reduce soot by 90 percent [compared with current vehicles], will reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions by 75 percent and will increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent," she says.

Talk about a "win-win" situation: FedEx gets to be an environmental "good guy" and cut its fuel bill in half at the same time.

We asked FedEx's Mitch Jackson why diesel, as opposed to gasoline engines, like those used in hybrid cars? "Diesel offers good fuel economy benefits already. When you couple that with hybrid electric technology, you increase your fuel efficiency even more," he said.

The executive director of global forecasting at the international marketing information services firm J.D. Power and Associates, Walter McManus, sees the high profile of FedEx helping hybrid awareness. "The introduction of these vehicles into something like a fleet, like the UPS fleet or the FedEx fleet, is a very good way for a technology that's not proven yet to be proven in the marketplace, proven in the field," he says.

But Mitch Jackson says FedEx needs no more convincing that hybrids work. "We did testing in San Antonio, Texas, last year, last fall, with an independent testing laboratory and feel this technology is viable now," he says.

Twenty trucks using Eaton technology begin real-world testing in four U.S. cities later this year. If goals are met, the hybrid electric trucks will be placed in the company's pick-up and delivery fleet as early as Fall 2004. The program has the potential to replace the company's 30,000 medium duty trucks over the next 10 years.