UPS to test hydrogen vehicles in U.S.

United Parcel Service will begin testing package delivery vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells late this year, the carrier announced Monday.

The zero-emission vehicles, built by DaimlerChrysler, will be the first use of fuel cell technology in a commercial delivery fleet in North America, according to UPS.

The carrier announced the plan at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. They were joined by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, as well as officials from DaimlerChrysler and Michigan Gov. Janet Granholm, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell.

The EPA will supply a hydrogen refueling station at its Ann Arbor facility. The fueling station will be operational by the end of 2003 and will provide compressed hydrogen fuel to the UPS vehicles as well as other fuel-cell cars in the area.

The first fuel cell vehicle to be tested by UPS will be a DaimlerChrysler “F-Cell,” which will be used for early-morning deliveries by late 2003. In 2004, UPS will add one or more fuel cell-powered Sprinter delivery vans to its fleet. There are currently 2,500 Sprinter vehicles in UPS’s domestic and international fleets. Sprinters normally are powered by a highly fuel-efficient diesel engine and are certified as ultra low emission vehicles under EPA guidelines.

Fuel cells convert chemical energy – in this case, hydrogen’s reaction with oxygen – into electricity without combustion. The reaction of hydrogen and oxygen produce water vapor and heat as its only by-products, or emissions.

UPS operates 1,024 compressed natural gas vehicles in the U.S., the largest private fleet in the nation. In addition, the company operates more than 800 propane-powered vehicles in Canada and Mexico City; liquefied natural gas tractors in its West Coast fleet and an assortment of all-electric vehicles in its operating facilities.

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