FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog


March 31, 2010

The view of America on Route 66 gives perspective to where transportation has been.  We were standing on “prosperity corner” in Cuba, Missouri, shooting video of our new “star”, the All Electric van, in front of Hayes Family Shoe Store.  The owner had seen our story on the St. Louis morning news and wondered if we would make our way to Cuba.  As we were filming, Bobby Wallace, a FedEx Express courier from the local Rolla station drove by in his Sprinter delivery vehicle — one of the fuel efficient backbones of our fleet.  I think the two trucks crossing is a good metaphor for the crossroads we’ve been facing with the varied “alt fuel” vehicle options.

As we introduce our new electric vehicle (EV) I’m getting more and more questions regarding the role of the vehicle in our strategy.  Questions like ‘how does this affect our hybrid deployment’ and ‘how does this vehicle fit into our 20% fuel efficiency improvement goal?’  Perhaps more bluntly, ‘is FedEx chasing down a new technology rabbit hole?’  The short answer is this: today at FedEx Express we recognize that each technology has a “sweet spot”.  By positioning each vehicle type in the range where its capabilities are strongest, we can make the best use of the capital our shareowners have entrusted to us and make the most progress toward our published environmental sustainability goal.

In cities we have dense routes; on the other end of the spectrum we have couriers in rural areas who spend more time behind the wheel than in front of the customer.  Therefore, I think that going forward you might see us:

  • Position All Electric vehicles — with a range of up to 100 miles and zero tailpipe emission – to serve customers on high package density / lower mileage city routes.  Our new Navistar/Modec EVs can carry over 3000 pounds of freight to our customers in urban areas.
  • Utilize our existing W700s (our custom built 16500 GVW trucks) on routes that service our remaining high package density / low mileage routes.  This maximizes the package carrying capability of the vehicle while minimizing the fuel use.  In this kind of environment, sometimes one large truck is better than two small ones.
  • Deploy our Hybrid fleet on higher mileage routes with high stop-and-go conditions such as suburban and/or residential routes.  Higher mileage routes help support the return needed for the capital investment while reducing the carbon emissions that a traditional truck would produce.
  • Utilize fuel efficient, smaller production panel vans on our highest mileage, lower–package-density routes.  When “off-the-shelf” technology can be utilized we are able to minimize fuel used while maximizing the capital applied

As we roll down Route 66 on our EV tour, comparisons between old and new are constantly in view.  Parallel to Interstate 44 are glimpses of the old Route 66.  I can’t think anyone on our tour wants to exit the four lane freeway and go back on old two lane road with four-way stops and traffic lights, despite its nostalgic appeal.  While our older vehicles will at some point have that nostalgic feel, I know that just like the old Route 66 they won’t disappear overnight.  We know that the transition is necessary and this is an exciting time in the evolution of transportation.

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