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Purolator Introduces Prototype Battery-Electric Delivery Vehicle

The Quicksider electric delivery vehicle.

Purolator, Canada’s largest overnight courier company, introduced the Quicksider, a prototype all-electric, lightweight urban delivery vehicle. The Quicksider will be tested and evaluated for performance on the streets of Toronto.

The Quicksider was developed by a consortium led by Toronto-based Unicell Limited in partnership with ArvinMeritor, Battery Engineering and Test Services Inc.; Bodycote Material Testing; Electrovaya Inc.; PMG Technologies Inc.; Purolator Courier Ltd.; Southwestern Energy; and the Transportation Development Centre of Transport Canada.

The Quicksider has a one-piece fiberglass body and stainless steel chassis. Cargo capacity is 10% more than a conventional 16' step van. The electric motors in the powertrain deliver a combined 230 hp (172 kW), and are currently powered by a sodium nickel chloride battery pack. Minimum range is 65 km (40 miles), with a top speed of 110 kph (65 mph).

In a parallel project, Electrovaya—also a partner in the Quicksider program—is developing a version of its lithium-ion polymer battery system for application in the lightweight urban delivery vehicle.

The Quicksider also offers other operation-enhancing features including automatic doors, a tighter turning ratio and pneumatic suspensions that enable the truck to kneel to curb level to unload packages.

Preliminary design work on the Quicksider first began at Unicell in 2000. In 2003, Purolator joined the development team to provide insights and recommendations that would help make the electric vehicle more effective for use in a courier environment. After analyzing courier routes and terminal  operations with Purolator drivers, managers and engineers, Unicell enhanced its original designs to include features that will help maximize efficiency in delivery operations.

Drivetrain systems manufacturer ArvinMeritor joined the project team in 2004 to design and build the electric axle drivetrain, regenerative braking system, and system integration of motors, gears and controls for a working prototype vehicle. The Transportation Development Centre of Transport Canada also supported the project throughout its development.

In addition to the introduction of the Quicksider prototype, Purolator has also added 30 new hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) to its curbside delivery fleet across Canada, with 28 in Vancouver, one in Ottawa, and one in Montreal. Purolator currently has 19 HEVs and one fuel-cell hybrid electric vehicle in service in Toronto since 2005.




It seems that we'll get BEVs in the form of urban delivery trucks before we see commuter cars. There's already a couple companies in the UK producing several models of these.

Thomas Lankester

Makes sense. Urban delivery vans have intense stop-start drive cycles and the companies will balance the long term operational costs against the initial capital investment. Jo public tends to be put off my the up-front costs of green car technologies.


That thing is huge.

Harvey D

Does this delivery truck have the equivalent capacity to the new (2008) Beijing electric garbage trucks. If I recall, the Beijing units will do 100+ Km between charges and use Lithum batteries.

The Electrovaya version may come very close to the Chinese version?

May it come from China, Canada, England, USA etc it does not really matter as long as it is being done in large numbers. Sooner or latter, BEVs will hit the road at an affordable price.

Rafael Seidl

This appears to be aimed at the same market as the Smith Newton trucks currently under evaluation by the Royal Mail in the UK. They and Sainsbury supermarkets hav also bought the Edison, which is based on the Ford Transit van. TNT, another courier service, is evaluating left-hand drive versions of both in Rotterdam.


In France, La Poste is evaluating BEVs based on the Citroen Berlingo. Urban delivery vans of various sizes appear to be a good fit for all-electric propulsion, especially for fleet operators.


I agree with Thomas Lankester. For delivery routes with intense stop-start drive cycles, it does make sense to concentrate upon an electric drive that provides an urban delivery van with regenerative braking.

There is something I still fail to understand. Is the absence of an ultra capacitor pack a serious omission? Or, does the developer of the Quicksider have some industry knowledge about the return of kinetic energy / price ratio?

Molten sodium batteries have sizzle, but caps have been around since 1795.

Rafael Seidl

@ jcwinnie -

supercaps would be more efficient for recuperative braking and reduce cycling load on the Electrovaya batteries. However, they are not essential, a sufficiently large Li-ion battery pack with cells optimized for high power (rapid charge/discharge) can also handle this duty cycle. The trade-off is range on a single charge, but perhaps it's enough for these types of vehicles.

Another option would be to protect the batteries against cycling using a hydrostatic hybrid system (cp. Eaton/EPA trucks).

I think if someone wants to design "a prototype all-electric, lightweight urban delivery vehicle" they should try building a vehicle somewhat smaller than a bus. Maybe something the size of a typical courier delivery truck. Seriously, as jack said, "That thing is huge". Can't tell by the small picture? Click on it and you will see that it looks like they have put a fiberglass body on a bus chassis. No wonder the minimum mileage is only 40 miles.

All that said, at least they are trying and I wish them luck. Bon chance mes amis!


What about solar panels on top? With all that real estate on the roof, wouldn't it be advisable to install them?

Nick G

They've got 1 fuel cell hybrid in service, and 1 BEV in prototype, but they've got 49 hybrids, with 30 added just this year.

I'd say that hybrids are what they're really committing to, and they're keeping their options open on the others.

Let's hope they move to PHEV's soon. That probably would make more sense than a BEV, even for a delivery vehicle.

Martin Lee

RE the comment about ultra capacitors. Unless some one has altered the basic physics of capacitors and chemistry of batteries they store charge in different ways. A capacitors voltage increases as the amount of stored charge is increased, while a battery has a fairly flat voltage profile over the usable range of charge. Hence in order to use both batteries and capacitors in the same power train two seperate sets of electronics would be required. This will increase cost and complexity, probably by more than the potential savings in weight and cost by using the ultra capacitor as well as the battery, hence the reason that they do not feature in most BEVs. This may well change if production volumes reach the point were it makes sense to design custom controler and power chips for BEVs. Personaly I think that this won't happen in any less than 3 years possibly many more.


I work for Purolator and have seen this vehicle in person. I can assure you it is nowhere near the size of a bus. More like a mid-size motorhome, about the same size as a "regular" Purolator truck.

Ever seen the inside of a loaded Purolator truck? We deliver WAY more than just envelopes. We regularly deliver everyting from tires, car bumpers, windshields, & hoods, hot tub covers, cases and cases of diapers, computers, toilets, motorcycle frames, transmissions, reels of wire, bags and bags of mail, huge quantities of clothing for retail operations, the list of large bulky items goes on and on.

You could make it smaller but what would be the point? We would have to triple the size of our fleet to accommodate all the freight. In urban areas, there are anywhere from 60-140 discrete delivery stops in each vehicle. Many of these stops are comprised of multiple boxes/envelopes; 100 - 400 individual pieces of freight per vehicle. You need a BIG truck to get all this stuff on board.

Also, range really isn't an issue when you are making deliveries at almost every business all the way along a street which is only a few Km's from your depot.

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