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UPS Deploys Industry's First Alternative Fuel Tractors

UPS will introduce the package delivery industry's first alternative fuel Class 8 tractors. Ten Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tractors will officially begin operating in the company's West Coast fleet each day traveling from California to Nevada.

The LNG tractors are part of UPS's "rolling laboratories" strategy. UPS's fleet is an ideal framework for testing new technologies to reduce emissions from heavy duty vehicles, the class of vehicles most difficult to address. The company is working with several engine manufacturers to test viable options approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

"With the introduction of liquefied natural gas tractors, we now operate alternative fuel vehicles in every part of our fleet," said Ron Kirby, corporate automotive engineering manager for UPS. "We have a laboratory on wheels to identify the best options for reducing emissions and operating costs in heavy-, medium- and light-duty trucks. It's a difficult balancing act with today's available technology, but the best way to proceed is by experimenting with manufacturers."

Preliminary data shows the new LNG tractors -- while substantially more expensive -- address four concerns: providing ample power to tractors hauling over-the-road trailers while still significantly reducing emissions, maintenance, and operating costs.
  • Ample power: The LNG engines were manufactured using newly developed Dual-Fuel technology. The Dual-Fuel LNG system allows the engine to start on a small amount of diesel fuel before switching automatically to LNG as the primary fuel source.
  • Low emissions: By primarily running the engines on liquefied natural gas, the LNG tractors' emissions fall well below the EPA's standard for heavy duty trucks.
  • Reduced maintenance costs: The diesel ignition process eliminates the need for spark plugs as used in dedicated LNG engines. In addition, natural gas requires fewer oil changes.
  • Reduced operating costs: The cost of LNG averages about $0.65-$0.70 per gallon, compared to $1.40 to $1.50 per gallon of diesel (although it does take almost two gallons of LNG to equal one gallon of diesel.)

    Because of its density, LNG is a viable alternative fuel source for large trucks that need to go long distances before stopping to refuel. Daily, the 10 LNG tractors will each haul two 28-foot-long trailers on the 545-mile trip between Ontario and Las Vegas. They also will be used to pick up trailers filled by large volume customers. Together, these vehicles will haul more than 31,000 packages a day.

    UPS's alternative fuel fleet includes the United States' largest private fleet of compressed natural gas vehicles; the industry's first operational hybrid electric delivery vehicle, all-electric delivery vans and propane powered delivery vehicles in Canada and Mexico City. The company also is reviewing plans for fuel cell technology projects.

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