UPS Testing High-MPG Composite Vans (video)

Many among the car industry’s “old-guard” kvetch and moan about government-mandated fuel economy goals that force mpg improvements of 10, 15, or 25% compared with current figures (I’m looking at you, “Maximum Bobby” Lutz – it wasn’t that long ago you claimed a 25% improvement was “ridiculous”).  UPS, it seems, took a long, hard look at its many thousands-strong commercial delivery fleet and said “Why not 40?”

That’s right:  UPS’ new CV23 composite-bodied truck is expected to improve fuel economy by up to 40%, compared to UPS’ current trucks.  UPS has already commissioned 5 of the vans, and began its real-world tests this April (the tests will continue throughout the year).

The CV23 is propelled by a 150 hp, high-torque Isuzu diesel (nee GM/Duramax), which sends power to the ground via its 6-speed automatic transmission.  With substantial weight-saving measures in play – mostly the CV23’s composite bodies – these prototype vans weight approximately 1000 lbs. less than the C70 models they may one day replace.

You can get a look at the new UPS vans in action in the video, below.

In addition to the video, UPS has released a handy-dandy fact-sheet covering the most significant features of the C23, and how it compares to the C70 (below).

UPS Composite Car Fact Sheet

UPS has agreed to test five new CV-23 prototype vehicles from Utilimaster / Isuzu to see if they can meet the demands of UPS’s operating needs.

  • The testing for these vehicles begins in April 2011 and will conclude at the end of December 2011.
  • The goal is to see if the CV-23 withstands the rigors of UPS’s daily delivery routes while achieving a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency over the UPS P70 diesel package car.
  • UPS sees this vehicle as traditionally fueled, with an alternative design for both its engine and chassis.
  • The 150-horsepower truck utilizes an Isuzu four-cylinder diesel engine and a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission. The engine is smaller than a traditional UPS diesel engine and the hope is the smaller engine will sip less fuel during daily operations.
  • The Utilimaster / Isuzu CV-23 has 630 cubic feet of cargo space compared to 700 cubic feet in the P70.
  • The CV-23 is approximately 1,000 lbs lighter than the P70 due to the use of composite body panels.
  • UPS has chosen five locations to determine the ability of the CV-23 to handle all types of climate conditions. These routes were chosen because they presented varied extremes that UPS vehicles encounter around the country. The deployment areas are:
    • Lincoln, Nebraska – some of the roughest back roads in the country
    • Albany, New York – tough winter conditions
    • Tucson, Arizona – extreme heat of the desert
    • Flint, Michigan – long urban route near Isuzu headquarters
    • Roswell, Georgia – vehicle here will provide close access for the UPS corporate automotive department.

It seems like the managers of huge fleets (like UPS’!) with their electric fleet ambitions and ambitious hybrid programs, obviously aren’t listening to America’s Viper-driving over-compensators (like Lutz!) and the “drill, baby, drill” psychonauts … and that’s a very good thing!

What do you think, readers?  Think UPS is on to something?  Let us know!


Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.