UPS has developed a truck made from composite plastics that uses 40 percent less fuel than traditional aluminum delivery trucks. (Photo : zyphbear/flickr)
Plastic trucks are moving beyond playpens and are hitting the road. The United Parcel Service (U.P.S.) has ordered the production of 150 delivery trucks made with composite plastic panels, following a year of testing these vehicles.
These lightweight plastic trucks will reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent when compared to traditional aluminum-bodied delivery trucks, known as the P70, reports the New York Times. The plastic trucks are expected to hit the road by the fourth quarter of 2012, and will likely be put to use on high mileage routes in the western U.S.
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UPS spent three years developing the truck, known as the prototype CV-23, and then spent a year testing them in five separate regions.
"We wanted to put these trucks out in our operational centers to duplicate the real world conditions our vehicles undergo," Dale Spencer, director of automotive engineering at U.P.S. told the New York Times.
The CV-23 is about 1,000 pounds lighter then the P70 - 8,600 pounds compared to 9,500 - and it holds about 630 cublic feet of cargo space, which is 70 less than the P70.
The trucks were designed in collaboration between UPS and Utilimaster, an Indiana-based speciality commercial-vehicle builder.
"This was developed from a clean sheet of paper," said John Knudtson, vice president of product development for Utilimaster of Wakarusa. "The architecture is unique. It doesn't exist just off the shelf."
The CV-23 is powered by a 150-horsepower, 4-cylinder Isuzu diesel engine that is more fuel efficient than the General Motors and Cummins engine used in the P70 package cars.
UPS has long searched for ways to reduce fuel consumption, including plotting routes with the fewest left turns possible and implementing alternative fuel vehicles, both electric plug-ins and trucks that run natural gas.
Lynnette McIntire, a sustainability spokeswoman for UPS, told the New York Times that the field test proved to the company that the CV-23 would meet all durability challenges. She also said the composite trucks could eventually find use in longer-range and heavier U.P.S. trucks.