UPS TESTING ELECTRIC VANS FOR LIGHT-DUTY LOCAL USE

UPS TESTING ELECTRIC VANS FOR LIGHT-DUTY LOCAL USE

After a 20-year hiatus, United Parcel Service is again experimenting with an electric-powered van.

The vehicle, an Ecostar van built by the Ford Motor Co., is being used to make local deliveries of air shipments in the Sacramento, Calif., area. Next year, UPS will add two more vehicles, one in the Washington, D.C., area and the other in Europe.The company will test the concept over the next 30 months, at which time it hopes to deploy a number of vehicles for light-duty use within urban areas. Atlanta-based UPS, the nation's largest transportation company, carries 11.5 million pieces every day.

The vehicle can reach speeds of 60 miles an hour and can operate 120 miles on a single battery charge. It can hold between 850 and 1,000 pounds of cargo, UPS said.

Based on Ford's European Escort van, the Ecostars are equipped with an advanced sodium-sulfur battery that would provide three times the operating range of conventional batteries, UPS said.

UPS began using electric-powered vehicles in 1930 in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. At peak use, UPS had 104 electric vans in the late 1930s.

The company discontinued their use in the early 1970s, saying the vehicles were too slow, lost power too quickly and operated over too short a distance. The old vehicles operated an average of 12 miles a day and at speeds of 18 to 22 miles an hour.