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Hybrids will be used in California

Hybrid vehicles are considered by many carmakers to be a jumping off point for fully electric vehicles once battery technology improves. Hybrids save drivers on fuel and produce fewer emissions as well.

Typical hybrid vehicles -- like the Toyota Prius -- are small cars designed for average consumers. However, larger vehicles like FedEx delivery trucks can accommodate hybrid technology as well. FedEx has announced that it has added 92 new hybrid trucks to its delivery fleet. The addition of the 92 new hybrid trucks brings the total number of hybrids in the FedEx fleet to 264.

Prior to the addition of the new vehicles FedEx had 174 hybrid delivery vehicles in its fleet. FedEx says that its hybrid fleet has logged more than 4 million miles since it was introduced in 2004 and has reduced the amount of fuel used by 150,000 gallons and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1,521 metric tons.

That is the same as removing 279 cars from the road each year according to FedEx. The FedEx vehicles in question are converted standard delivery vans and were created during the last six months. The conversion process created 50 new temporary jobs in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. The converted hybrid vehicles replaced the standard engine, fuel tank, and drive shaft with a hybrid-electric system produced by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation and Eaton Corporation. All of the vehicles converted by FedEx were 2000 or 2001 models with 300,000 to 500,000 miles driven.

"The conversion of these standard FedEx trucks into hybrids is the latest milestone in our drive to advance and adopt hybrid technology into our fleet and the broader industry," said John Formisano, vice president, Global Vehicles, FedEx Express. "FedEx and our suppliers have demonstrated that converted hybrids are a viable, lower-cost option compared to purchasing new hybrids. We now need government incentives to end a Catch-22 situation: Production volumes are low due to high cost, and costs will only come down with higher production volumes."

The new hybrid vehicles will mostly be placed into service in California in the LA, San Diego, and San Francisco areas. FedEx says that incentives in place in California helped make it possible to add the hybrid vehicles to its fleet.

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Converting older trucks
By Spuke on 7/23/2009 12:25:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is a great way to continue using older trucks but I wonder how much the conversion cost was. Anyone know?

RE: Converting older trucks
By nvalhalla on 7/23/2009 12:34:51 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same thing. If it was only marginally more than replacing the drivetrain with standard parts, it would be very worthwhile.

RE: Converting older trucks
By Nobleman00 on 7/23/2009 12:59:49 PM , Rating: 2
FedEx says that incentives in place in California helped make it possible to add the hybrid vehicles to its fleet.

I figure they:

Replaced the engine with a smaller gas engine to charge the batteries and added an electric plant to drive the powertrain.

Reaped tons of incentives and benefits from CA.

Repurposed the gas engines as spare parts for their existing full-gas fleet.

Win-win plus fuel savings if you ask me. In most metro areas, these trucks drive from base to delivery area, then it's all day moves of about 100 feet from block to block, then drive back to their base at the end of day. The runs to and from base would require gas, and provide the charging time, but during deliveries, if it was all downhill, they could probably coast from block to block with no gas or electricity.

RE: Converting older trucks
By AEvangel on 7/23/2009 1:16:16 PM , Rating: 2
I think the re-purposing of the vehicles is also a really good investment whether or not the Hybrid really does do that much better then it's gas counterpart the idea of recycling older trucks, then reusing the old parts is truly more environmental friendly then all those people out there trading in their SUV's for Brand new Prius.

RE: Converting older trucks
By Mitch101 on 7/23/2009 1:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
I asked for something like this a while ago.

I like my car and would like to see an option to make it more hybrid. I cant say full Hybrid because I'm sure the engineers take the cars weight and other items into consideration. It might not be ideal but let say its $10,000 to convert my car into a hybrid drivetrain. Well it would cost me $23,000 for a comparable replacement car and since the interior and body of the car are in great shape I would consider doing this. The car is out of any warranty but if the replaced drive train came with one I would consider doing this.

Save a car from going to the landfill. They could probably recycle the engine and trans on my car to someone else.

RE: Converting older trucks
By Spuke on 7/23/2009 1:56:10 PM , Rating: 2
I cant say full Hybrid because I'm sure the engineers take the cars weight and other items into consideration.
As long as you stay under the cars GVWR, you would be fine (brakes are rated for GVWR). You might lose some passenger and luggage capacity though. Some cars are barely able to accommodate passengers with luggage so car choice would be important.

RE: Converting older trucks
By Samus on 7/23/2009 5:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
Brakes usually need to be upgraded on stock vehicles, anyway. Especially Chrystler's. There's no reason my SVT Focus has half the stopping distance from 100mph than a Camry, which 1000 times more people drive, just because my rotors are 2 inches larger.

RE: Converting older trucks
By Alexvrb on 7/23/2009 11:29:05 PM , Rating: 2
No reason? I hope you're being sarcastic. In addition to being a smaller, lighter vehicle, the SVT model Focus is a "high performance" variant. Hardly fair to compare it to a typical Camry. You said it yourself, the front rotors have a nearly 2" larger diameter. That's a big difference in swept area (times 4 surfaces) especially when coupled with appropriately-sized pads and larger calipers. Probably has larger rear brakes as well, and less brake fade period as a result of bigger and better-ventilated rotors and different pad formulation. Factor in grippier tires (factory tires on everyday models tend to be cheap and designed with fuel economy in mind) and if you didn't stop in half the distance from 100 MPH I'd be downright disappointed.

RE: Converting older trucks
By lightfoot on 7/23/2009 4:54:07 PM , Rating: 2
Save a car from going to the landfill.

Cars are not sent to landfills - the steel is far too valuable. Good parts are stripped from the vehicle and the rest is crushed and recycled. There is very little waste in the process.

RE: Converting older trucks
By grandpope on 7/23/2009 3:02:56 PM , Rating: 4
but during deliveries, if it was all downhill, they could probably coast from block to block with no gas or electricity

In my day, we used to deliver packages on foot, uphill both ways, in 10 feet of snow!

RE: Converting older trucks
By Hiawa23 on 7/23/2009 3:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds great. I wonder, does the US Postal also use hybrid vehicles? I think all govt entities should use hybrids or electric vehicles in their fleets, if they don't already. Could save the tax payers alot of $$$, better for the environment.

RE: Converting older trucks
By teldar on 7/23/2009 3:45:08 PM , Rating: 2
The Post Office hasn't taken tax payer money other than as stamps since the 70's I believe. They are not at all funded by taxes anymore.

RE: Converting older trucks
By The0ne on 7/23/2009 12:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
definitely. most companies with big vehicles here in san dieg 9sr, finger typing....eatting) have alrdy done it. It's good to see fedex in the game.

RE: Converting older trucks
By TomZ on 7/23/2009 1:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is a great way to continue using older trucks but I wonder how much the conversion cost was. Anyone know?
I don't know the costs, but I'm sure it was expensive. But even if the ROI is not there from the fuel savings, it makes for nice PR, since all companies want to advertise they are "green." I'm sure you'll see this fleet in a lot of FedEx ads in CA.

RE: Converting older trucks
By WSCC on 7/23/2009 2:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
The cost of the project is half the cost of buying a new truck.

RE: Converting older trucks
By TomZ on 7/23/2009 3:20:54 PM , Rating: 2
How much are those delivery trucks? $50K? $100K? Do you happen to know the number of miles to break-even for this conversion?

RE: Converting older trucks
By Spuke on 7/23/2009 5:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
It's probably over $100k for the truck like the one pictured above. I think the Sprinter van trucks are $50k.

RE: Converting older trucks
By The0ne on 7/23/2009 5:50:39 PM , Rating: 2
It seems to me a win-win for the company taking the leap. They get the PR which makes customers and consumers happy and it "could" pay off in the long run in savings.

Happy customer and consumer will, for example, be more acceptable to a price hike. Or for converted trash trucks they're willing to pay more taxes :D

The Real Question
By siliconvideo on 7/23/2009 12:51:06 PM , Rating: 1
The real question should be "Do these conversions really reduce CO2 emisions?

1) How much CO2 emissions occurred during construction and installation of the conversion kits?

2) Which vehicle, hybrid or combustion engine has lower total CO2 emissions when moving 1 ton of cargo across town?

For question number 1, no matter what, it takes some energy/CO2 to build and install the conversion kits. I just don't know how much. For question number 2, I contend that it takes the same amount of energy to move that cargo in either vehicle version, except the the hybrid version will use less since when it idles it uses zero energy and regenerative breaking will help some too.

Overall we must look at the full product life cycle to determine if this approach really reduces CO2 footprint or if this is just a feel good measure for FedEx.

At this point I probably don't even need to mention that the hybrid version will cost more then the original version.

RE: The Real Question
By Jimmybones on 7/23/2009 1:18:13 PM , Rating: 3
You raise some very good points but unfortunately we are missing on key piece of information.

What would have happened to the trucks if they were not converted.

It seems to me by choosing such old fleet vehicles they were destined for destruction.

Based on this we would have to then compare the CO2 cost of a completely new vehicle creation/delivery vs the conversion creation/delivery/installation.

While we all agree that a hybrid does cost more. We also need to know what is the cost difference between a regular and hybrid if they were to be ordered new.

Then attempt to factor in the recovery time from fuel savings(if there is any) and maintenance costs and such.

A complex issues for which we lack a lot of data.

RE: The Real Question
By luceri on 7/26/2009 10:41:34 AM , Rating: 3
That's exactly why they did it probably -- Complex issue with no real world data, only theoretical arguments going both ways. Large company like FedEx -- This number of trucks is nothing. It's more an experiment than anything else probably for the future; Expensive now sure, but let's get some data on it and by the time results are out perhaps will be less so.

RE: The Real Question
By barrychuck on 7/23/2009 1:19:48 PM , Rating: 5
While I normally support the questioning of the whole chain from energy source to final consumption, it's not a viable arguement in this case.

No more energy/CO2 emissions is created making a hybrid drivetrain than creating a similiar non- hybrid and installing it. Get a grip on reality. What we are disccussing here is a high milage fleet vehicle that is having it's drivtrain swapped at a normal overhaul cycle with a hybrid one. The hybrid combustion engine produces less carbon emmisions per mile driven due to the fact less fuel is used per mile. Nobody ever said it was a miracle engine.

These vehicle do way more stops and idles in a given day, than any other vehicle fleet, which just happens to be the peak of hybrid benifits.

This beats building a new vehicle by a long shot and thus the whole process produces less CO2 emmision than building a new Prius. Not to mention, we are talking about a fleet of high mileage vehicles driven every day almost all day long.
Honestly, how much CO2 do you think it takes to replace an engine in a car?

In short, you are ill informed at best.

RE: The Real Question
By michal1980 on 7/23/2009 2:18:17 PM , Rating: 1
Really it takes no more co2 to build a hyrbrid sytem vs a normal gas engine?

Lets see:

Both gas and hybrid have a gas engine, so lets makeing those engines is cO2 neutral.

But the hybrid has at the very least:

a 2nd hybrid engine/motor
a large set of batteries
a regen braking system.

There is no way that the co2 creation for a hybrid system is less then that of a standard ice engine

RE: The Real Question
By Parhel on 7/23/2009 2:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
You can't count up the number of parts and multiply it by 'x' to get total CO2 emissions. Might as well say that a hamburger with ketchup and pickles caused twice the carbon emissions of a plain hamburger. It may be true, it may not be, but that logic fails.

RE: The Real Question
By lightfoot on 7/23/2009 5:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
More parts involves more manufacture and more assembly. The only possible savings is if the hybrid engine can be made small enough to offset the cost of the other parts.

It is very unlikely that both power trains cost the same amount in either dollars or energy consumed. The hybrid will cost more, and will pollute more during manufacture and installation.

I do agree that a FedEx truck is very likely to recoup all additional costs, so the point is not relevant.

RE: The Real Question
By michal1980 on 7/23/09, Rating: 0
By chartguy on 7/23/2009 7:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
Some simple arithmetic : The article says the fleet of 174 hybrid vehicles drove 4 million miles over the last five years.

That's less than 23,000 miles on each vehicle , in five years. They're obviously not being used much for deliveries. They probably have them on a couple of high-profile, low-mileage routes, to show the reporters, with most of them as backups for breakdowns.

Something is wrong. Maybe they're unreliable. Who knows?

By lightfoot on 7/23/2009 11:06:04 PM , Rating: 2
Good catch - that does seem very suspicious.

I wonder if they meant 4 million miles per year for the last five years - that would make more sense.

By lightfoot on 7/23/2009 4:57:29 PM , Rating: 3
FedEx says that incentives in place in California helped make it possible

What kind of incentives did California offer?

I'm sure Colorado or Texas have far nicer IOU's. Collectable even.

Hybridization of the Fed Ex Trucks
By WSCC on 7/23/2009 1:58:21 PM , Rating: 2
My company has been following this story and according to our research dept. and the hybridization of these trucks were a very huge saving of almost 1/2 of the cost of getting a new one! Sounds like a good deal to me (2 for the price of 1)

The company that actually did the work is out of Charlotte, NC (Can Am Custom Trucks).

layed off IT workers
By hellokeith on 7/23/2009 9:17:14 PM , Rating: 2
FedEx could purchase 1092 hybrid vehicle upgrades with all the money they saved by laying off an army of IT workers.

If only..
By goku on 7/24/2009 5:56:12 AM , Rating: 2
Now if only the U.S Postal service could convert their fleet into hybrids. Never have I seen more wasted gas than in the delivery of mail, far worse than UPS or Fedex can do..

And prices go up...
By smackababy on 7/23/09, Rating: -1
RE: And prices go up...
By MrUniq on 7/23/2009 1:43:54 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't seem like a move to appease any 'environmentalist'. Just a business decision to use the latest technology to cut costs and potentially increase profits.

RE: And prices go up...
By brybir on 7/23/2009 5:46:41 PM , Rating: 1
It is a business decision that is made possible indirectly because of the "environmentalists".

These conversions are expensive. If they could stand on their own (i.e. the hybrid system had a defined positive ROI) they would not need to be making the comments about needing government incentives to get the volume moving.

If it was profitable FedEx, UPS, USPS etc and every other large volume freight transport company would start using them, which would drive up volume and thereby decrease costs. The fact that the FedEx rep says that their is a catch-22 and they need government money implies that this conversion may not be profitable on its own merits.

So, they do the conversions and operate the vehicles in states that give massive subsidies to companies that reduce emmissions, i.e. California. These subsidies would not exist if it were not for the environmentalist types in california (and other states) that keep passive large state level subsidies for hybrid technology.

This is not to say I do not like the idea. I think some of the best use for hybrid type technology is in our trucking and hauling fleets. But I do not like the idea of large government subsidies (i.e. me and you paying for it) to force these changes along. Subsidies are how we ended up with things like corn-ethanol dominating the alternative fuel scene at the expense of much better ideas.

RE: And prices go up...
By TomZ on 7/24/2009 4:00:04 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly right - good analysis. To summarize, if this move made sense w/o subsidies in terms of ROI, they would upgrade the entire fleet. So it seems logical that they are looking for taxpayer dollars to do the upgrades in order to get the environmental (and PR) benefits.

RE: And prices go up...
By ClownPuncher on 7/23/2009 1:55:04 PM , Rating: 3
It saves them money, I really doubt "enviro-nuts" are the driving force behind this descision. Breathe deeply into the paper bag.

Anecdotally, I have had nightmare service from UPS, generally favorable interactions with FedEx...I will gladly pay a few extra dollars so my box won't have a foot-shaped hole in it. But I don't see how saving themselves money would induce a rate-hike.

RE: And prices go up...
By SirKronan on 7/25/2009 5:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
To me this looks like a situation were everyone wins.

1. Extend the life of old cars that, other than worn out engines, are perfectly fit for duty.
2. Less pollution
3. The hybrids likely operate a little quieter
4. Much cheaper fuel expenses.

They put so many miles on their vehicles that they will see the costs come back in savings.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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