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FedEx adds to electric vehicles, energy-efficient fleet

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Giant delivery company invests in more electric vehicles but also says it will also take more measures to make existing fleet more efficient.

Over the next two months, delivery company FedEx Express plans to add 24 more electric vehicles to its fleet, in three new U.S. cities: New York, Chicago and Memphis. The move will more than double the all-electric vehicles that the company has on the road. It already has them in operation in Los Angeles, Paris and London.

But it isn't waiting around for the electric vehicle revolution. FedEx Express also plans to bring on more hybrid-electrics and to upgrade more than one-tenth of the vehicles in its existing fleet to be more energy-efficient. Overall, the company says it is adding more than 4,000 new energy-efficient vehicles.

Said Dennis Beal, vice president of global vehicles at FedEx Express:

"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. Our goal has always been to optimize and operate our vehicle in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, so that emissions are reduced while serving our customers in the best possible manner."

The electric vehicle deployments will actually include some retrofits, using Enova Systems flexible drive technology so that it can use existing vehicles bodies. Other technologies that are part of the overall deployment include developments by Navistar, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. and Ford Motor Co./Azure Dynamics.

Another interesting aspect to this deployment. FedEx Express will be closely documenting the impact of these deployments so that other companies -- and communities -- can benefit from its experiences. For example, in New York, FedEx Express will be working with GE and the Columbia University Engineering School to study the impact of electric fleets on the energy grid. Another thing that the company will be looking at closely is which vehicles are appropriate for certain routes, and not for others. For example, electric vehicles are great in urban settings. Not so great on high-mileage routes, at least for now.

Said Keshav Sondhi, manager of asset management for FedEx Express Global Vehicles:

"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 percent more fuel-efficient than the most commonly found alternatives 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."

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Heather Clancy

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Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure