Transport and logistics giant UPS Inc. on Tuesday said it was working with the startup electric vehicle supplier Thor Trucks Inc. to test a fully-electric version of the company's classic, brown package cars as part of an effort to seek solutions to financial, regulatory, and infrastructure constraints of electric vehicles.
Atlanta-based UPS will test the medium-sized, class 6 vehicle for six months this year in both simulated conditions on an off-road durability track and in on-road delivery cycles on routes in and around Los Angeles, the company said.
Testing will evaluate the vehicle's durability, battery capacity, technical integration, and engineering, and could lead to additional purchases of the electric vehicle depending on the results, UPS said. The truck's 100-mile range at fully loaded—or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)—is comparable to many of the full-day routes currently served by UPS' diesel-powered trucks, UPS said in an email.
The pilot program is the latest step by Atlanta-based UPS to transition its class 8 tractor trailers and class 6 package cars from diesel to electric and other alternative fuels. In February, UPS announced plans to deploy 50 electric package cars by the end of 2018 from Loveland, Ohio-based electric vehicle manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc., saying the new technology has the potential to cut emissions, fuel consumption, and operating costs. UPS has also pre-ordered 125 battery-powered Tesla Semi trucks from Tesla Inc., and expects to add those to its fleet when production is scheduled to begin in 2019.
UPS plans to test electric vehicles from those manufacturers as well as the British firm Arrival Ltd., Daimler, and others through a "rolling laboratory" approach. In that process, UPS will deploy about 9,300 low-emission vehicles to match various route configurations with the best technology, such as all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and propane, UPS said.
As truck fleets and carriers throughout the industry begin testing alternative fuel vehicles, one of the largest unknown factors is how to build the new infrastructure to support the specific kind of fuel required.
For example, Tesla says that its class 8 Tesla Semi will be capable of cruising for 500 miles following a 30-minute charge, but the company has not shared details about the voltage required for that charge. Tesla sedans can charge their batteries much faster through the company's network of 480-volt "Superchargers" than through common household outlets.
In comparison, the electric vehicle from Los Angeles-based Thor Trucks will not require specialized infrastructure for its charging needs beyond 240-volt electrical service, UPS said in an email. That is more powerful than a typical 115-volt residential wall outlet, but is comparable to the power needed for common appliances such as an electric clothes dryer, oven, or home air conditioning compressor, UPS said.
By partnering with UPS on the electric vehicle testing program, Thor Trucks plans to help develop solutions to the financial, regulatory, and infrastructure constraints of adding electric vehicles to the transportation industry, Thor Trucks CEO and Co-Founder Dakota Semler said in a blog post.
"Thor's partnership with UPS signals a change in an industry that is in constant flux," Semler said. "The automotive ecosystem is undergoing a transformation and we're seeing an influx of old school companies partnering with startups in a meaningful, progressive way.As experienced fleet operators, UPS will help us understand what we need to do to get fully-electric fleets on the road."