Freightliner to produce hybrid vans for FedEx Express, others

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Freightliner Custom Chassis will produce more than 100 hybrid electric-powered walk-in vans for FedEx Express and other customers in 2006. Designed for lower emissions and better fuel economy, the vans are built on an MT-45 SR chassis platform from Freightliner Custom Chassis and have a GVWR of more than 15,000 pounds.

FedEx Express, which initiated the program, already is operating 18 of the vans in Sacramento, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; New York City and the District of Columbia, and expects the vans to become a mainstay of its medium-duty delivery fleet. “Our initial success with FedEx is just the beginning,” says Reid Bigland, president of Freightliner Custom Chassis.

The hybrid-electric vehicles are powered by “an electric motor through an energy storage device developed by Eaton and a Mercedes-Benz MBE904 diesel engine from Detroit Diesel,” says Mike Stark, senior technical sales manager for Freightliner Custom Chassis. Utilimaster also was involved in the engineering. “This combination of conventional diesel and electric propulsion systems provides the extended range and rapid refueling characteristics of a typical diesel engine plus the fuel efficiency and lower emissions of an electric motor,” Stark says.

Lithium-ion batteries capture and store energy during “regenerative braking,” providing a source of stored electrical power. All battery charging is provided by the hybrid-electric powertrain, eliminating the need for a power cord or electrical outlet. The companies claim a more than 50 percent improvement in fuel economy and a 90 percent reduction in emissions.

FedEx Express recently received a Blue Sky Award from CALSTART, a nonprofit dedicated to advanced transport technology, for “outstanding marketplace contributions to advanced, sustainable transportation that cleans the air, improves energy efficiency and reduces greenhouse emissions.”