MIT: EV Delivery Fleet Investment Pencils Out

Holy sticker shock! A business looking to shrink its carbon footprint by purchasing an electrically powered fleet vehicle is generally looking at $150,000 in up front costs, versus $50,000 for a truck powered by the good ‘ole internal combustion engine. And yet, big commercial players like FedEx and Frito Lay have taken the plunge in recent years in a big way, ponying up for hundreds of electric delivery vehicles. What gives?

According to a new study conducted by the smart folks at MIT, despite the high cost of such fleet vehicles, it all works out financially—not only in the long-term, but the short-term, too.  In fact, the study concludes that electric vehicles (EVs) are not just environmentally friendly, but also represent a potential economic bonus for many (but not all) types of businesses.

image via PepsiCo Frito-Lay

The study, which was conducted by researchers at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, found that EVs can actually run businesses 9 to 12 percent less that your average diesel delivery truck on average if used to make deliveries on an everyday basis in major metropolitan areas. Clearly, FedEx and Frito Lay fit the bill. (Smaller businesses making a lot of rural deliveries? Not so much, as the limited range of most EV trucks still makes them untenable.)

Another business that fits the bill is Staples, the big box office chain that makes deliveries both large and small every day in every major city across the country. Staples has 53 all-electric trucks, manufactured by Missouri-based Smith Electric Vehicles, in use in several American cities. Based on data provided by Staples, the MIT researchers were able to model different scenarios for a fleet of 250 vehicles, under three different fuel schemes: all electric, hybrid gas-electric and diesel.

Based on diesel fuel running $4/gallon, the study found that trucks with traditional internal-combustion engines averaged 10.14 miles per gallon, compared to 11.56 miles per gallon for hybrid trucks, while the electric-only trucks averaged 0.8 kilowatt-hours per mile.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

1 Comment

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    u da 1

    smith on ropes after blowing hundreds of millions good idea bad management

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