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Purolator Courier hybrid-electric van
Purolator Courier hopes to eventually replace 2,000 of its urban-based Class 4 delivery vans over the next five years with fuel-saving hybrid-electric models that will also cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half. Utlimately, its sees hydrogen fuel cells as the future, producing zero GHG emissions and using a endlessly renewable fuel.

Purolator Explores A Hybrid Future

Interview with Purolator Courier's National Fleet Director, Serge Viola

By EV World

Purolator Courier, Canada's largest overnight courier service spent $30 million last year on fuel for its 3,700 Class 4 trucks, medium-duty trucks, over-the-road diesel tractors and 24 dedicated charter aircraft.

And it's going up!

As this article prepares to go on-line, the futures price for crude oil has shot up over $4 a barrel in 24 hours to $55.15, a three week high spurred over worries about end-of-the-year diesel fuel inventories.

Besides concerns over fuel supply, Canada has signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, compelling socially-conscious companies like Purolator to pro-actively address its fossil fuel consumption. Propelled by these two powerful drivers, Purolator's national fleet manager, Serge Viola (pronounced like the musical instrument) began looking at ways to save fuel and cut its share of global warming emissions.

Like its American competitors across the border, Purolator decided some 18 months ago to look at the potential of hybrid-electric drives, turning to Vancouver-based Azure Dynamics.

Last Friday, May 27, 2005, Purolator took delivery of its first ten vans, nine using either gasoline or diesel fuel, and one using a hydrogen fuel cell from Hydrogenics, its Mississauga, Ontario neighbor..

According to Viola, the company decided to order both gasoline-electric and diesel-electric versions to test the fuel and emissions savings of each, a process that will take place over the next six months. The fossil fuel versions are expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% and the fuel cell version by 100%. Neither company has made any specific claims as to potential fuel savings.

The drive system is a series hybrid architecture, meaning the vehicle is driven by the electric motor only. The fossil fuel engine turns on only when the vehicle is in motion and only to recharge the NiMH battery bank. Each Class 4 van has a zero-emission range of about 3 kilometers. About 2,000 Purolator vans operate in urban environments, putting on about 100 miles a day in stop-n-go driving, making the series hybrid architecture the ideal choice.

The only series architecture exception is the fuel cell version, which utilizes both the battery bank and fuel cell stack to provide traction power for the vehicle. Viola explained the the stack can throttle itself from a 5kW idle mode up to 65kW peak. The FC van is also part of Toronto's "Hydrogen Village" initiative.

In addition to the ten vehicles now being placed in service, mainly in the Toronto metro area, another twenty vehicles are slated for delivery and deployment this summer on other Purolator routes around Canada. Assuming the initial six month trial is successful in terms of fuel and emissions savings, as well as all-important vehicle reliability, Viola told EV World that the company is prepared to purchase 400 replacement vans a year for the next five years. Those 2000 vehicles comprise the bulk of the company's urban vehicle fleet. The remaining 1,700 vehicles would benefit less from hybridization given the nature of their routes, he explained.

Viola said that part of the design requirement for the new vehicles was that they be as transparent to the driver as possible, being virtually identical in configuration to the company's current Class 4 fleet. The drive system and chassis of each vehicle is assembled at Azure Dynamics in Vancouver and then shipped to Purolator's U.S. body supplier for final assembly.

Viola said that the company currently has not plans to investigate the hybridization of its heavier truck fleet, which consists of some 300 medium duty vehicles and more than 360 diesel, over-the-road tractors.

Part of the cost of the project is being underwritten by the Government of Canada to the tune of more than $2.6 million Canadian dollars .

For more information, see Purolator's press release.

Times Article Viewed: 7430
Published: 02-Jun-2005

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