UPS Orders 400 CNG Trucks From Freightliner, Kenworth

UPS has cemented a greener future in moving their fleet to alternative fuel, along with advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations. They are adding 400 CNG semi-tractors, from Freightliner and Kenworth to their fleet and also building another five compressed natural gas fueling stations. This brings the total amount invested during the past 10 years to over $1 billion.

The five new compressed natural gas fueling stations will be built in:

  1. Goodyear, Arizona
  2. Plainfield, Indiana
  3. Edgerton, Kansas
  4. Fort Worth, Texas
  5. Arlington, Texas

The new CNG vehicles will be deployed on some of their busiest traffic lanes. They also plan to add in smaller fleets, running on natural gas in many other locations. According to UPS, locations they are considering include Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

The effectiveness of Vehicles Running on Natural Gas Has Been Proven

The President of UPS Global Fleet Maintenance and Engineering, Mr. Carlton Rose, revealed that the logistics company has proven just how effective vehicles running on natural gas can be. During 2017, the company used the equivalent of 77 million gallons in their ground fleet.

The package carrier that is one of the best-known fleets worldwide also announced a large investment in CNG capacity during 2018 by adding 330 terminal trucks. These additions build on the foundation of the $100 million dollars they paid during 2016 and $90 million in 2017. TICO is the supplier of the 330 trucks.

What Is CNG?

CNG, otherwise known as compressed natural gas is one way of ensuring that natural gas is available, along with LGN (liquefied natural gas), when it might not otherwise be. However, natural gas first has to be compressed. This is at a compression rate of over 3,000 pounds per square inch. By doing so, the volume is shrunk to just 1% of the volume at normal atmospheric pressure.

There are benefits and tradeoffs of using CNG. One of the biggest benefits is a cleaner fuel than diesel. This fuel is much more eco-friendly to the planet because carbon monoxide levels are lower, along with having fewer nitrogen oxides, the main culprits in the output of smog.

One of the biggest negatives is that one gallon of CNG provides only one-quarter of the amount of energy from gasoline. Another downside is that vehicles running on CNG need a larger fuel tank due to the low energy density and pressure that comes with gas having been highly compressed. As CNG does not allow vehicles to travel as many miles as diesel or gas-fueled trucks without having to be refilled, truck fleets rely on having central locations for refueling. UPS is building out their refueling network including the addition of the new fueling stations.

The Impact of CNG on UPS’ Fleet?

A UPS CNG Truck Evaluation report revealed natural gas vehicle and engine compressor technologies have improved since 1996 when they were first introduced to the market. Early adoption of CNG vehicles used in the logistics field was allowed from a longer-term perspective. UPS has been working on moving over to CNG fueled vehicles by conversion since the 1980’s, making use of aftermarket kits. This operation included conversion of the engine to ensure the trucks would run on natural gas and fitting storage cylinders in the vehicles.

CNG conversions on trucks began in 1995 in Hartford, CT following the installation of a compressor station. However, it was not without problems. One of the biggest issues was a limit on the filling of vehicles and this was only 3,000 psi. A new station was built at Waterbury and this did away with the limit, providing refills at 3,600 psi. The DOE/NREL Truck Evaluation Project of UPS was based on the first purchase of vehicles from Freightliner, built during 1996, that was in operation since April 1997 at the sites in Hartford and Waterbury. The evaluation was based on data from January 1997 to October 2000, with the report suggesting UPS has been operating delivery trucks running on CNG continuously and they have not come across any major issues. The UPS report also concluded:

  • The company managed to overcome vehicle differences as the trucks running on CNG were given an engine upgrade, giving them more horsepower along with torque. This brought them to similar ratings as diesel-powered trucks.
  • Thanks to new technology, the fuel economy penalty is now as low as 10% in comparison to that of diesel vehicles.
  • CNG trucks have a better fuel economy of around 28% compared to diesel trucks.
  • At Hartford, the maintenance costs for trucks running on CNG came in at around 29% higher in comparison to trucks running on diesel. This was due to replacement parts, repairs, and general maintenance.
  • At Hartford operating costs for CNG fueled trucks came in 29% higher than diesel but at Waterbury, the results were 2% lower.
  • According to the mobile chassis dynamometer at West Virginia University trucks running on CNG had emissions lower than diesel trucks.
  • Levels of carbon monoxide were 75% lower while nitrogen oxide was 49% lower, carbon dioxide 7% lower and non-methane hydrocarbons along with hydrocarbons were 4% lower.

Why Make the Move to CNG Fueled Trucks

At a recent industry conference about natural gas vehicles, it was pointed out that natural gas comes with lower costs of about 30%. With UPS being one of the largest fleets in the world, this is something their maintenance managers look at very closely.

Yves Maurais, the Engineering Manager at Roberts Transport said that the more the trucks running on CNG fuel are out on the roads, the more money can be saved. Double shifts are an excellent way of saving money for those running daily operations, with CNG fuel being a great way of saving on the cost of fuel. The move by UPS to add 400 CNG vehicles to their fleet is not just about saving on fuel but they will also be helping the environment. UPS is doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 12% by 2025.

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