Encouraged by the results of its road tests and ongoing technical developments, UPS is putting three Dodge Sprint hydrogen fuel cell medium-duty delivery vans into mainstream operation. UPS is deploying one van in Los Angeles, one in Sacramento and the third in Ann Arbor. These are the first medium-duty fuel cell vehicles in full commercial use in the US.
According to DaimlerChrysler, compared to the first Sprinter, the new fuel cell Sprinters feature a 20% increase in powertrain efficiency; a 40% increase in range to 155 miles, and a 45% increase in peak engine power. They now have similar acceleration as a gas- or diesel-powered UPS vehicle.
“Our two test programs showed the on-road reliability of fuel cell vehicles is excellent, equivalent to our current fleet,” said Chris Mahoney, UPS senior vice president of global transportation services. “But what’s truly exciting is how fast the technology is progressing.”
Mahoney added UPS is excited by the prospect of a significant reduction in maintenance expenses since the drive train will last longer than a gas or diesel engine.
The vehicles in their new configuration also offer a 10% increase in cargo capacity compared to the diesel-powered Sprinters now in use by UPS, and the fuel cell technology eliminates the need to house an engine in the front of the vehicle, making it easier to explore new automotive designs, he added.
“The refueling infrastructure is the next critical need,” Mahoney concluded.
The Fuel Cell Sprinter is the first fuel cell-powered Dodge. Based on the exisiting Dodge Sprinter, the FC Sprinter uses a Ballard fuel cell system.
Daimler Chrysler, the EPA and UPS have been collaborating since 2003 in this area. As part of this program, UPS operated an Mercedes-Benz F-Cell (a fuel cell powered Mercedes-Benz A-Class) for six months in daily package delivery in Southeastern Michigan—the first commercial use of a fuel cell vehicle in the United States.
UPS rival FedEx is testing a diesel hybrid delivery van assembled by Eaton and using a Mercedes diesel engine. (Earlier post.)