Viewpoint: Going green can be costly

Avatar photo

For at least two decades now, the trucking industry has been dabbling with alternatively fuelled or powered vehicles. By and large the experiments have not amounted to much. Although there have been noted successes on a small scale, it has always proved difficult to argue against the advantages of diesel when one considered the already existing infrastructure, the performance, and, most recently, the considerable efforts towards making diesel-powered vehicles much more environmentally friendly.

But I must admit that a recent speech from Robert Johnson, president and CEO of Purolator Courier Ltd., has left me wondering if as an industry we are really taking as hard a look as we should at alternatively-powered vehicles. Johnnson told the Canadian Courier and Messenger Association that Purolator’s vision is to lead the industry to a future standard of zero emissions.

Wanting to show this vision was more than just talk, Purolator introduced 10 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) to downtown Toronto in May of this year – reportedly the first Canadian courier company to begin the transition to hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet. It is deploying an additional 20 hybrid electric vehicles to other metropolitan areas throughout Canada.

This past spring, Purolator also introduced a fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle as well as one of the first ever complete hydrogen fuel cell applications in a Canadian fleet environment, including everything from hydrogen generation and refuelling to the power module.

Since deploying the HEVs Johnson said Purolator has already accumulated more than 30,000 kilometres of in-service mileage with the curb-side delivery vans.

The HEVs have proven capable of eliminating up to 50 per cent of greenhouse gasses currently emitted by conventional gasoline/diesel delivery vehicles, and significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Reduction of fossil fuel use is also averaging about 50 per cent, which, considering current diesel prices and future concerns about price volatility, makes this option that much more attractive.

Johnson said his company has been so impressed by the results, that it recently committed to ordering an additional 115 HEVs from Azure Dynamics – the largest order of its kind in the delivery industry. These will be integrated into Purolator’s fleet in major urban centres in Canada with deliveries of the first vehicles beginning in 2006.

Given the millions of kilometres Purolator vehicles cover each year filling customer orders, Johnson believes he has placed his company on a bold and industry-leading initiative to cut dependency on fossil fuel, reduce pollutants and make a significant difference to urban areas where air pollution is a serious issue.

The purpose of this editorial is not to endorse hybrid electric vehicles. It is to endorse the need for major industry players to lead by first adopting a vision that significantly reduces the industry’s environmental footprint and then showing the fortitude to act on it. If for nothing else, a commitment to experiment with greener technologies – hybrid electric or otherwise – endorsed by a greater number of fleets would help remove one of the greatest current hurdles to wider adoption: the considerably greater capital costs compared to conventionally-powered vehicles. The more demand, the lower the unit costs will become as production achieves economies of scale.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at

Avatar photo

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.