UPS' latest prototype. Image: UPS

UPS' latest prototype. Image: UPS


A body made of lightweight composite panels, LED lighting, a high-efficiency four-cylinder diesel engine and easily-repaired molded fenders may sound like the ideal basis for a fuel-efficient commuter car, but in this case it’s the latest prototype delivery truck being evaluated by UPS. The delivery company has rolled out five  such trucks in four cities, each with a different testing purpose behind them.

Flint, Michigan, is getting a prototype, since Flint has long, urban routes and is located close to Isuzu’s powertrain division. Isuzu builds the four-cylinder diesel engines used in the experimental truck, and proximity to their headquarters will allow Isuzu to closely monitor their engine’s performance throughout the test.

Lincoln, Nebraska, was chosen for their rough, often unpaved back roads, while Roswell, Georgia, received the truck due to their proximity to UPS’s automotive team headquarters. Albany, New York, is getting a prototype, to see how the truck performs during harsh winter weather. Finally, Tucson, Arizona, was chosen for their scorching desert heat.

UPS expects the trucks to be as durable as models currently in-fleet, while returning some 40 percent better fuel economy. They’re 1000 pounds lighter, so the Isuzu diesel used for the evaluation is smaller and more fuel-efficient than current engines used by UPS. The truck is more environmentally friendly, too, since panels are molded in color and not painted and the composite requires less energy to produce than aluminum panels.

The evaluation began in April and will run through December, allowing UPS to collect ample data on the performance of these prototype vans. If all goes well, don’t be surprised to see similar vans in your area in the not-too-distant future.

[The Detroit News]