UPS has announced that a coalition of companies it pulled together to work on its Smart Electric Urban Logistics (SEUL) project has developed a “radical new charging technology” that promises to allow for the charging of a large number of vehicles in a single area without the requirement for massive upgrades to electrical infrastructure.
UPS believes the innovation will allow it to convert all 170 of its vehicles operating in the greater London area to fully electric vehicles. The project was executed in partnership with UK Power Networks and Cross River Partnership and developed what the team believes is a breakthrough in electric vehicle charging that will revolutionize package delivery in urban environments around the world.
“Our previous work on electric freight vehicles has shown that local grid infrastructure constraints are one of the main barriers to their large-scale uptake,” said Tanja Dalle-Muenchmeyer, programme manager electric freight at Cross River Partnership.
To work around this constraint, the team added onsite grid-scale batteries. The prototype installation utilizes new batteries but the team envisions used batteries from older electric delivery vehicles being given a second life as stationary storage at its charging depots to maximize the value it gets out of existing assets and reduce the need to purchase new batteries at every location, every time.
The batteries form the foundation of the solution that is controlled by smart grid technology and serves as the brain for the entire operation. The solution will be custom built for each location and, depending on the need, can also be bundled with a power upgrade and onsite power generation, if possible.
Investing in this project shows that UPS is taking the results of its electric vehicle pilots seriously and sees electric vehicles as the future of its delivery business. “UPS thinks this is a world first, right in the heart of a mega-city. We are using new technology to work around some big obstacles to electric vehicle deployment, heralding a new generation of sustainable urban delivery services both here in London and in other major cities around the world,” said Peter Harris, director of sustainability for UPS Europe.
UPS has been experimenting with modern electric vehicles since 2001, with 300 fully electric vehicles in its fleet today and almost 700 hybrid electric vehicles cutting emissions as well. Recently, it ordered 125 Tesla Semi trucks.
Not to take anything away from UPS, it should probably be highlighted that Tesla, GreenWay, Fastned, and some others have been working to add energy storage to charging stations as well in order to get around grid constraints and costs. As battery costs drop and charging needs rise, it seems this will become the norm rather than an interesting exception.
Images courtesy: UPS