At an awards ceremony earlier this week, the UCLA Anderson School of Business bestowed the John Wooden Leadership Award on FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith. During dinner at the award ceremony, the subject of FedEx’s “Charge Up Route 66” road trip introducing our new all-electric van came up. A FedEx customer posed an interesting question, something along the lines of “you just have one truck, isn’t this just about PR?”
Her question was certainly a fair one. After all, FedEx Express has about 40,000 trucks globally and the Company is taking a lot of time and effort to introduce this first EV. However, the reason these vehicles are so important to FedEx, and the transportation industry generally, is they represent what is possible. Legendary Coach John Wooden, who is the inspiration for the leadership award presented to Fred Smith, was quoted in the award ceremony as saying “don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do”. I hope the “Charge Up Route 66 tour” will show what can be done for the future of transportation, while bringing attention to obstacles that we hope to remove.
At FedEx, we understand that someone must start to deploy this new technology to pursue and capitalize on it’s capabilities. While it is expensive to take this first step to utilize developing, all-electric vehicle technology, it is an investment that must be made. It is important to note that the first 18 diesel-electric hybrids we invested in in 2004 are still serving our customers every day and we’re still learning things about that technology. These vehicles, when we purchased them, had a price premium in multiples of a regular truck’s cost. The case for the EV is the same. However, we now have 5.5 million miles of revenue service on our hybrid-electrics and they have saved 183K gallons of fuel as a fleet, in addition to environmental benefits in the form of vastly reduced emissions.
When another company announces an order for hybrid trucks, we see it as a way to bring down the cost of the technology for everyone. By not attempting to make the hybrid technology proprietary, we hoped to encourage others, knowing that the more companies that embraced the technology, the lower the price will be for everyone going forward.
Our EVs in LA are joining our London and Paris EV fleets to both demonstrate what is being done on the road and at the same time point out what needs to be done in the R+D labs as well as in the chambers which set policy. We hope we bring attention to the need for:
- Stabilizing the technology – learn what’s needed in version 2.0 and beyond to make the vehicles more viable
- Stimulating demand – provide real world feedback for policy makers and other potential users
- Bringing sanity to the regulations that affect light and medium duty vehicles – 21st century rules for 21st century technology
- Bringing security to our energy supply in the US – increase electrification to reduce the need for imported oil
On Monday, the FedEx Route 66 team was on one of the final stretches of the tour in Pasadena and we stopped at Caltech to give the students and faculty a chance to crawl around the vehicle and ask questions and give us their feedback. We had the opportunity to have our vehicle parked outside the lecture hall where Dr. David MacKay presented the concepts detailed in his book “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air” (http://www.withouthotair.com/about.html. It was rewarding to see the lecture attendees see the electrification of transport concept described by Dr. MacKay embodied in steel, fiberglass and lithium-ion. We think the time for the EV has arrived. We want to lead the industry to it’s benefits, even if it starts with just four here in LA. The challenges are real, but so is the opportunity. We hope this tour brings attention to both.
For more information: http://fedex.com/electric
Vice President, Global Vehicles