UPS and the Rise of the Electric Truck

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United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) has 119,000 vehicles to deliver packages that go through its systems. Some of these use alternative energy. Now, the company wants to push further into electric vehicles. Its new experiment will be very small but, if it works, the electric truck business will get a boost.

Thor Trucks makes electric trucks. It calls itself a “transportation lab,” which means it is not a mainstream manufacturer. Nevertheless, it will help UPS put six electric class 6 trucks on the road in the Los Angeles region. A class 6 truck is medium-sized by truck measuring standards.

Typically, an announcement of such a small experiment would not justify any comment by a company the size of UPS, but something about the project must have caught the eyes of senior management. UPS stated in a press release:

UPS today announced a collaboration with Thor Trucks, Inc. to develop and test a fully-electric class 6 delivery truck in Los Angeles, Calif. The truck is expected to be ready for deployment later this year.

UPS continues to work with a range of companies to test and deploy promising alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles that will help it meet its sustainability goals. Electric vehicles, and the charging infrastructure needed to support them, play a critical role in UPS’s vision for its fleet of the future. The Thor electric delivery truck will have a driving range of approximately 100 miles powered by a Thor-designed and built battery that will be lightweight, durable and allow long-range driving distances.

It is not the only UPS electric truck experiment.

Either UPS wants the world to think it has gone green or it believes the lower cost of electric will impress investors. Presumably, fossil-fuel-powered vehicles will become obsolete because of fuel prices, while the cost to operate electric vehicles will fall. The UPS experiments are tiny enough that it is hard to be convinced that the company has made much of a gamble either way.

But one or two electric vehicles put on the road by the world’s largest package delivery company is a start, no matter how modest.