The “Rolling Laboratory” initiative, established 10 years ago, has enabled UPS to invest upwards of $750m by the end of 2016 in alternative fuel and advanced technology fuelling stations globally. The vehicles have since travelled more than one billion miles collectively as part of the delivery service.

The completed one billion target, which was established in 2012, was revealed at part of the company’s 14th sustainability report. The report noted that since 2007 overall carbon intensity has fallen by 14.5%, as UPS closes in on a 20% reduction target for 2020.

“We had a big sustainability goal as we set out to make the most of our rolling laboratory by driving one billion clean miles in alternative fuel vehicles – that’s the equivalent of well over 4,000 trips to the moon,” UPS’ chief executive David Abney said.

“While attaining this goal is new, our commitment to seeking out alternative fuels actually dates back to the 1930s when UPS tested electric vehicles. With more than 100,000 drivers logging more than three billion miles per year, our future depends on our ability to meet the growing demand for global trade while reducing our impact on the environment.” 

Despite the Rolling Laboratory achievement and the inroads made into carbon intensity, 2015 saw total greenhouse gas emissions increase by 2.6%. UPS have cited its airline operations – which account for 57% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions – as the reason for this increase, with next day air deliveries rising by 3.3% in volume in 2015.

As a result, UPS plans to purchase an additional 60 million gallons of renewable diesel and natural gas during the next few years. The company will also continue its commitment to planting 15 million trees by 2020, with five million planted to date.

Established in 2013 after successfully surpassing a 10% target three years early, the 2020 carbon intensity target has been aided by the company’s On-Road Integrated Optimisation and Navigation (ORION) route mapping system. ORION has reduced driving routes by 100 million miles annually, reducing emissions by 100,000 metric tonnes and avoiding the use of 10 million gallons of fuel as a result.

Deploying more than 7,200 vehicles in the Rolling Laboratory, UPS has combined its alternatively-fuelled vehicles with the ORION system, which can see up to 30,000 delivery route optimisations each minute. Currently, around 12% of the conventionally-fuelled ground fleet is being replaced by these new fuel-mix vehicles. UPS is also using innovative bike hybrids to pedal around heavily-populated urban areas.

UK ambitions

In September last year, UPS confirmed the purchase of 125 hybrid electric delivery trucks in the US and began trials for its first range-extended electric vehicles in the UK. Working with TEVVA Motors, the delivery firm developed an electric vehicle prototype for the UK that can cover more than 200km on top of the normal range of 75-100km.

Speaking exclusively to edie earlier this year, UPS’ director of sustainability for EMEA Peter Harris and chief sustainability officer Rhonda Clark called on the UK Government to create a ‘level playing field’ by allowing the transport sector to create a better support system for vehicle electrification and enable more investment into biofuels.

Matt Mace

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