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Purolator outlines hybrid strategy

TORONTO, Ont. - A futuristic looking plug-in electric delivery truck has taken to the streets for Purolator Courier as part of Phase 3 of its 'Greening the Fleet' program.


TORONTO, Ont. – A futuristic looking plug-in electric delivery truck has taken to the streets for Purolator Courier as part of Phase 3 of its ‘Greening the Fleet’ program.

Unicell Canada and ArvinMeritor are building the zero-emissions delivery truck dubbed the QuickSider.

It boasts a tight turning radius, an electrically-controlled rear door, top speed of 100 km/h and a range of 80 km between charges. Serge Viola, director of Purolator’s national fleet, said the courier company began testing the new delivery truck in July as part of its continuing quest to ‘green’ its fleet.

The QuickSider is the latest in a wide range of low- and no-emission trucks Purolator has agreed to test. Viola said the company first began toying with the idea of converting to hybrid delivery trucks in 2001. It targeted a 50% decrease in fuel consumption as well as a 20% savings in maintenance-related expenses.

“We wanted to be a leader and the first on the road” when it came to hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, Viola said at the recent Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminars.

Purolator considered itself an ideal guinea pig for emerging hybrid technology since its fleet of 3,000 Class 4 P&D trucks spend plenty of time idling in traffic and make an average of 10 to 12 stops per hour.

Through a process known as regenerative braking, hybrid electric vehicles harness braking energy and store it in battery packs so it can be used to help power the vehicle when required.

The company has welcomed several types of hybrid trucks into its fleet to date, and Viola says the jury is still out.

The first 19 Purolator hybrid delivery trucks have accumulated 333,000 km and average 22.7 litres of fuel per 100 km.

That represents a fuel savings of 40%, or 58,309 litres (diesel electric hybrids saved roughly 3,000 litres per year with gas-electric hybrid trucks saving about 2,000 litres).

“We didn’t get the 50% we targeted but 40% is not bad,” said Viola. A year and a half into the test he said it is too soon to predict maintenance savings. But they are expected to materialize since there’s less engine-on time, fewer parts and reduced wear and tear on brakes.

Purolator also experimented with a completely emissions-free fuel cell delivery truck.

After running the truck for less than two years it has been placed out-of-service. Problems with the fuel cell truck included excessive refueling time, slow acceleration, a lengthy start-up process and cold weather operability issues, Viola said.

The 24 batteries also proved to be too heavy. Purolator has sent the fuel cell manufacturer back to the drawing board and has not yet closed the door on fuel cell vehicles, Viola said.

“There were some lessons learned,” he said of the first fuel cell test truck.

Viola also told CFMS delegates his company is interested in testing hydraulic hybrid vehicles, which recover braking energy in the form of hydraulic fluid. But he admits all the testing Purolator has conducted is costly and he is appealing to government to provide some incentives.

“We need some government assistance,” said Viola. “We’re not in the business of building trucks or designing trucks. The only way to get the price down to where it’s affordable is to get the (production) numbers up but there’s not enough government money out there to be a motivator for people to be early adopters.”

Viola admitted it’s getting more difficult to sell the concept of helping develop environmentally-friendly delivery vehicles to Purolator’s Board of Directors and said the company is ultimately seeking a three-year payback on new designs.


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