Founded in 1907 as a messenger company in the United States, UPS has grown into the world's largest package delivery company and a leading global provider of specialised transportation and logistics services. Its business depends on access to central urban environments: without access to streets in city centres, end-to-end delivery becomes impossible. In 2008, the company’s European business identified the increasing importance of improving air quality and decreasing road emissions to city agendas (e.g. Clean Air Zones) and acted proactively to anticipate changes.
UPS developed a Rolling Laboratory strategy that now includes 9,000+ fleet vehicles globally using a range of alternative and renewable energy sources. Additionally, UPS is constantly testing how to drive efficiency and reduce emissions while meeting customer needs, and determined that electrification of delivery vehicles makes sense in London: the bulk of trips are well within the range capabilities of a pure electric vehicle, and zero tailpipe emissions capabilities support the city’s ambition to improve air quality.
To support this, the company overcame two key challenges:
- Vehicle conversion: Limited availability of 7.5 tonne electric vehicles for urban distribution meant that instead of focusing on procurement, UPS invested in the diesel-to-electric conversion of existing vehicles. Under the FREVUE initiative (Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe), UPS has to date converted forty London-based diesel vehicles to electric propulsion at the midpoint of vehicle lifespan.
- Innovation in energy infrastructure: Legacy restrictions at UPS’s site meant that the power to charge all vehicles simultaneously was not available. To overcome this, the company applied for funding from FREVUE for additional infrastructure, increasing charging capacity from ten vehicles to 65. Supported by Innovate UK, UPS has recently deployed a smart-grid to raise the charging capacity from 65 to 170 vehicles.