FedEx charges its fleet of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles and parcel deliveries go together as naturally as stamps stick to envelopes. One of the big players moving forward in this space, FedEx, said today that it now has 150 electric delivery trucks in its Southern California fleet.

These delivery vehicles, named Zevo 600 after their approximate cargo capacity in cubic feet, come from a General Motors subsidiary called BrightDrop.

Each van has a range of approximately 250 miles on a charge. One of them in April set the world record for the longest trip by an electric delivery vehicle on a single charge, when it traveled nearly 259 miles. (The road trip was so engrossing that a reporter following the Verge seems to have, deservedly, fallen asleep twice.) Like other GM electric vehicles, the battery system that underpins these flat -shapes BrightDrop is called Ultium.

The first five of these BrightDrop vehicles arrived in December at a FedEx facility in Inglewood, Calif., the parcel giant previously said. Those deliveries continued, and now the electric vans number 150 in total, all in the hands of FedEx Express. Other stats to know: The company wants all of its pickup and delivery vehicles to be electric by 2040, and it says it will purchase 2,500 Zevo 600s specifically from BrightDrop “over the next few years.” Additionally, he says he has already built “over 500 charging stations” in the Golden State.

James Di Filippo, senior policy analyst at Atlas Public Policy, says he expects to see a rapid shift to electrification in the parcel delivery space. He’s happy with milestones like the one FedEx just announced. “It’s good to see those numbers starting to increase, especially because supply chain issues have hampered this transition – the delivery fleet transition – for some time,” he says. “Being able to take delivery of 150 vehicles is great news.”

FedEx isn’t the only delivery company working to electrify its last-mile vehicles. UPS’s global fleet includes “more than 1,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road,” it notes on its website. The shipping company has also announced plans to buy 10,000 electric vehicles from a British company called Arrival.

[Related: FedEx will start testing a 1,900-pound drone for hauling packages]

As for Amazon, The New York Times described its need for electric vehicles as “insatiable.” Amazon plans to integrate electric delivery vehicles from Rivian (which it partially owns) into its fleet, although there have been speed bumps and drama with this process, and the number of vehicles he actually delivered is not public. “We continue to produce and deliver custom Amazon electric delivery vans,” a Rivian spokesperson said via email, “with a focus on increasing production and deliveries.”

Amazon says that by 2030 it expects 100,000 Rivian delivery vans to make the rounds.

Yet there are variables holding back the shift to electric vehicles, such as supply chain disruptions. And rural areas could pose a challenge for electric deliveries, Di Filippo says, because of the longer distances. But “in-city parcel delivery is a slam dunk for electric vehicles,” he says.

Metropolitan areas have a number of factors that lend themselves well to electrification: fleet vehicles can return to a central hub where they can be recharged after their routes, for example, and the routes themselves are predictable and not too long.

“It’s great from a climate change perspective,” says Di Filippo, “especially as we increasingly rely on parcel delivery for the last mile of retail products.” Plus, “it’s fantastic for the air quality” in the neighborhoods where they deliver, he notes.

One outlier is the United States Postal Service, which in April was facing legal action stemming from its plans for its next-generation vehicles. In March, it predicted that only 20% of its new vehicles would be electric, with the rest to be powered by a combustion engine. By comparison, FedEx’s plans call for 100% of its pickup and delivery vehicles to be electric within the next 18 years.

“The real red flag for USPS is that all of their direct competitors in the private package delivery space have electrification plans, [and] set them in motion,” says Di Filippo.

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