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Utilimaster Readies All-Electric Vans for FedEx

July 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

At first glance, the delivery vans undergoing final body assembly do not appear different from any other vehicle that Utilimaster Corp. has produced. But look closer. On the production line, the hoods are missing from the front and the space where the diesel engine would sit is empty.

As reported by the Elkhart Truth, these are the new all-electric walk-in vans that Utilimaster, based in Wakarusa, Ind., and Smith Electric Vehicles, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., have designed especially for the FedEx delivery fleet. Smith manufactures the chassis and power train, Utilimaster builds the body and A123 Systems, with corporate offices in Waltham, Mass., produces the lithium ion batteries.

During the first week of July, Utilimaster production crews were working to fulfill the order for 27 all-electric vans and expected to be finished in two days. Twenty five of the vehicles will be outfitted with a coat of crisp white paint and FedEx logos.

To read the entire article in the Elkhart Truth click here.

 

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FedEx Adds EVs to Fleet, Four from FCCC

June 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. and the world’s largest express transportation company, continues its holistic fleet approach to fuel efficiency with significant expansion of its lower polluting, energy-efficient vehicles.

Within the next two months, FedEx Express will place 24 new all-electric vehicles into service that includes four Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. vehicles, according to a press release. The company s also expanding to three new cities and more than doubling its fleet to 43 all-electric vehicles while growing the diversity of suppliers it uses for electric vehicles.

At the same time, FedEx Express will be adding more hybrid-electrics, using composite vehicles and upgrading over a tenth of its conventional vehicle fleet to more energy-efficient vehicles.

“We are using efficient technologies that are readily available now, while investing in innovative technologies that we hope and believe can be vehicle workhorses for the future,” explained Dennis Beal, vice president of Global Vehicles at FedEx Express. “Our goal has always been to optimize and operate our vehicle fleet in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, so that emissions are reduced while serving our customers in the best possible manner.”

FedEx Express is bringing new all-electric delivery vehicles to New York City, Chicago and Memphis, and diversifying the existing Los Angeles fleet. In all, FedEx will add into service 15 Navistar eStar electric vehicles, two FCCC eCell electric vehicles and two FCCC electric vehicle retrofits, and five Ford Transit Connect Electric vans to complement the current 19 all-electric vehicles deployed in Los Angeles, London and Paris.

Not just an expansion in vehicle count, these vehicles will be studied to help evolve all-electric vehicle technology and to establish a foundation of understanding on utility grid needs by modeling impact of future all-electric vehicle growth on the shared energy grid.

• In New York, FedEx Express will be working with GE and Columbia University’s Engineering School to study energy grid impacts in an effort to project how large vehicle deployments would impact the energy grid.

• In Chicago, FedEx Express will be comparing different all-electric vehicle technologies to determine what works best for its fleet needs.

• In Memphis, FedEx Express is retrofitting existing vehicles to make them all-electrics, saving resources through using existing vehicle bodies. And, FedEx has added five Transit Connect Electric vans from Ford Motor Company and Azure Dynamics to support the corporate Information Technology Asset Disposal program, driving regularly scheduled routes to pick up, recycle, reuse and dispose of IT assets.

• In Los Angeles, FedEx Express is diversifying its fleet, adding an FCCC eCell to its current four Navistar eStar all-electric vehicles, and is in the midst of adding 45 new FCCC-Eaton hybrid-electric pickup and delivery vehicles to its fleet.

“Different vehicles are appropriate for different routes,” explains Keshav Sondhi, manager of Asset Management for FedEx Express Global Vehicles. “The key is to use the right truck for the mission on the right route. FedEx Express is adding all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles to dense urban routes that have a lot of starting and stopping. This use of regenerative braking and electric motors significantly improves the efficiency of the vehicles on such urban routes.

“On high-mileage routes, FedEx is upgrading vehicles with 4,000 fuel efficient, lower emitting BlueTEC clean diesel Sprinter Vans. Each Sprinter is at least 100% more fuel efficient than the most commonly found alternative it replaces. Since launching our first Sprinter in 2000, we have put close to 1.4 billion miles on these more fuel efficient vehicles, saving over 66 million gallons of fuel compared to their predecessors.”

FedEx Express has also been piloting five composite vehicles from Utilimaster in Detroit, Memphis, Jackson, Tenn., and Jonesboro, Ark. Dubbed “The Reach,” it is able to achieve 35% better fuel economy than its predecessor and has been performing well. The smaller, more efficient engine and low weight of the composite materials, which includes recycled rubber material, resin, fiberglass and poly core, compared to aluminum, allows the vehicle to achieve these fuel efficiencies.

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FedEx, UPS Test Utilimaster Prototype Truck

June 10, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

With nearly 120,000 of their delivery vehicles trucking around the streets of the world, every gallon of fuel that delivery operators FedEx and UPS can save really adds up.

So they’ve both turned to a small Northern Indiana company in Wakarusa, Ind., to try something new in the hunt for a better van, easier to operate and cheaper to fuel.

The Indianapolis Star reported that both companies say they may have found at least 35% better fuel mileage with a new 4-cylinder diesel engine and a truck made of lightweight composite materials.

FedEx and UPS are each testing five pre-production versions of the new commercial-duty delivery truck dubbed the Reach by builder Utilimaster and engine supplier Isuzu.

John Marshall, vice president of Utilimaster, said Thursday (June 9) that if the tests continue to prove the promised 35% improvement in mileage, full-scale production of the new vehicle is to begin by late this year.

That could mean hiring an additional 100 to 150 workers at Utilimaster, which now has about 600 workers assembling other vehicles, including versions that are all-electric, hybrids and other types of commercial trucks and vans.

Also, the company is now adding a second shift and needs 100 skilled workers, which is one reason Elkhart County economic development officials said Utilimaster is a bright spot in a region that was formerly at the center of the nation’s economic meltdown.

Instead, Utilimaster has invested more than $10 million — none of it granted or lent from the federal government — to prepare designs and a production line to make the new lightweight truck.

FedEx, which also is testing all-electric trucks assembled by Navistar in another plant in Wakarusa, has a goal of improving the overall average mileage of its worldwide fleet by 20 percent by 2020, said spokeswoman Deborah Willig. The company also is using some trucks modified with hybrid fuel systems by Utilimaster.

“We’re trying several technologies to see if it would be a good move,” she said.

It may be telling that a scale model of the new Utilimaster/Isuzu composite Reach sits in the lobby of the FedEx world headquarters in Memphis, Tenn.

Marshall said the Reach uses a chassis and 150-horsepower clean-diesel engine from Japan’s Isuzu.

Most commercial-grade diesels are fuel-gulping 8-cylinder engines. In typical delivery vans, they may yield 5 to 10 miles per gallon.

Marshall said Isuzu has provided the only 4-cylinder commercial-grade diesel available for use in the Reach, which cuts the weight and helps raise the fuel economy to about 15 miles a gallon.

“We brought both of the companies (FedEx and UPS) in at an early stage of the design process two years ago to get their needs upfront,” he said. “They wanted a vehicle that was long-lasting, reliable and gets good fuel economy.”

The result is more aerodynamic, and it looks a little different on the street from the usual FedEx and UPS vans. It is designed with the durability of 300,000 miles or, say, 10 years of service.

The production versions — available to the public late this year at 400 Isuzu dealers nationwide — also have been designed for businesses such as plumbers, florists and bakeries, Marshall said. Selling price has not been announced, but he said it will be similar to competitors.

The prototype truck is slightly smaller and carries about 4,200 pounds, compared with 4,800 pounds in the typical mainstay delivery vans.

FedEx is testing its Reach vans in Arkansas, Tennessee and Michigan, while UPS has them on the roads of Arizona, Georgia, Nebraska, New York and Michigan.

“This technology is available to us today,” said Dale Spencer, director of engineering at UPS. “We don’t have to worry about plugging it in or getting propane or CNG (compressed natural gas.)”

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Campgrounds Eye Impending ‘Tax Gap’ Closure

May 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

 

David Gorin

David Gorin

Federal tax issues are taking the forefront for small businesses, including campgrounds and RV resorts, according to consultant David Gorin, former CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

“The last few years, you can imagine most of the activity here in Washington has been centered around defense, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism,” Gorin told state campground leaders attending ARVC’s 2009 National Issues Conference last week in Washington, D.C. “While all that continues … tax issues are becoming more and more important, and they affect small business in a lot of ways.”

Gorin said the IRS, in particular, is attempting to close what is known as the “tax gap” — the amount of taxes the IRS expects to receive each year versus what is taxpayers actually send to the government.

“(The IRS) claims a good part of that gap is directly related to small businessmen … who under-report income and over-report their expenses,” said Gorin, who operates David Gorin and Associates and oversees the Best Parks in America marketing group.

“As you deal with large deficits and the need to generate more and more revenue to cover all the initiatives that are on the table now being paid by stimulus money going forward, how do we raise tax revenue? One of the ways, of course, is to increase taxes. The other way is to reduce the tax gap, and make sure there is increased compliance with tax laws.”

Besides increasing the tax burden, IRS efforts to close the tax gap will result in more paperwork, he said.

“There are some very scary discussions about what they are planning on doing to track down the tax-gap individuals, Gorin said. “It has to do with huge amounts of paperwork for small businesses, particularly.

“Instead of giving (IRS form) 1099s just for people who work for you, you will have to give 1099s to everyone that you make payments to, no matter who it is. Having, for example, FedEx send to you a 1099 for every nickel you spend with them, they are then going to report that to the government so there are ways to match expenses to reports.

“There are a lot of things going on in that area. We really have to be careful.”

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