Electric cars have been causing a lot of buzz lately. From Amazon to FedEx, delivery companies are upgrading their fleets, and the move to electric is having an outsize impact on pollution and climate change.
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The trucks that bring parcels to your home, apartment or office could soon run on batteries. Companies like FedEx and Amazon are going electric. This is Camila Domonoske from NPR.
CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: It’s a familiar picture and sound.
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DOMONOSKE: The vans and trucks loaded with boxes that deliver our Amazon orders and food packages and shipping wine.
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DOMONOSKE: But in the coming years these deliveries could sound a little different.
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DOMONOSKE: That’s the sound – or the lack of it – of a battery powered FedEx delivery. Electric vehicles are known to be very quiet. At the moment, such vehicles are only a small part of the FedEx fleet.
MITCH JACKSON: But I think we have only just begun to hit the tipping point of scalability.
DOMONOSKE: Mitch Jackson is the Sustainability Director at FedEx. And when he speaks of scalability, he means scalability all the way up. FedEx recently made a commitment to replace its entire pickup and delivery fleet with electric vehicles. These are the trucks and vans that drop packages at the doors, not the long-haul trucks. It is easier for these vehicles to drive electrically. They travel shorter distances from a warehouse to your home than across the country. As for charging …
JACKSON: If you think about it, our vehicles are in action all day, collecting and delivering our customers’ goods. And in the evening they come back to our stations and are parked there overnight.
DOMONOSKE: A lot of loading time. Jackson says electric mobility will fight climate change and also serve the bottom line. Electric vehicles still cost a lot in advance, but they save fuel. And the engines are a lot simpler, which means fewer things to break, which means lower maintenance costs.
JACKSON: The experience we’ve had with electric vehicles over the past decade – not only were they very efficient and powerful, but they were also cheaper to run.
DOMONOSKE: Not only FedEx comes to this conclusion. UPS has ordered 10,000 electric delivery vehicles. Amazon buys 100,000. According to DHL, almost a fifth of its fleet is already emission-free. The US Postal Service starts with 10% of its fleet. And some lawmakers want this to change faster. All of this demand has caught the attention of automakers. A few months ago, General Motors gave a keynote address at CES, the tech conference that usually focuses on fast-paced innovations like flying cars and robots. But GM Vice President Pam Fletcher faced a much less glamorous van.
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PAM FLETCHER: Efficient goods transport to reduce traffic jams and emissions and electrify an industry.
DOMONOSKE: It may not be a miracle, but GM is seeing dollar signs. CEO Mary Barra told investors that electric trucks could be a $ 60 billion market in a decade. This focus on the electrification of commercial vehicles – that’s a big shift. Jane Lane is a professor at the University of Chicago. She says most of the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from transport have focused on cars. But you can have a bigger impact on every single truck that goes electric.
JANE LIN: Trucks are much dirtier vehicles, much less efficient.
DOMONOSKE: And Lin says that now is the time to tackle these emissions, otherwise gas and diesel delivery vans will increasingly contribute to climate change.
LIN: Everyone went online to shop online. And I don’t think that’s going to go away after the pandemic. So that means you will now see a lot more of these delivery vehicles roaming the city.
DOMONOSKE: But maybe more of these vehicles will be electric in a decade. Camila Domonoske, NPR News.
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