updated 10/20/2004 4:49:54 PM ET 2004-10-20T20:49:54

Acting on a promise to phase-in diesel-electric delivery vehicles, FedEx on Wednesday deployed 10 of the low-emission, high-mileage hybrids in New York City.

The delivery giant partnered with New York state, New York City, truckmaker Eaton Corp. and Environmental Defense as part of a larger effort to begin replacing its diesel fleet with hybrids, which capture energy from braking and then store it in a battery that powers an electric motor, increasing overall fuel efficiency.

Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, saw the announcement as a sign of bigger things to come.

"A revolution in the trucking industry is underway," he said in a statement. "With these trucks FedEx is leading the pack. Environmental Defense now challenges all fleet owners to adopt clean trucks to reduce air pollution, oil dependency and climate change impacts."

FedEx's project began in 2000 when Environmental Defense approached the company, which operates 70,000 vehicles, about working together to create a low-polluting delivery truck.

The first FedEx hybrids were rolled out in Sacramento, Calif., last March, and the two vehicles are still operating there with "99 percent up-time in the field," FedEx said. The company is deploying six more hybrids this month in Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C.

The hybrids cut particulate emissions by 96 percent and travel 57 percent farther on a gallon of fuel, reducing fuel costs by over a third, FedEx said. The company noted that if 10,000 delivery hybrids were on the road instead of standard vans, then:

  • Smog-causing emissions (nitrogen oxides) would be cut by 1,700 tons a year, the equivalent of taking passenger cars off New York City roads for 25 days.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists tie to global warming, would be reduced by 83,000 tons.
  • Diesel usage would be cut by 7.2 million gallons.

Environmental Defense noted that a major obstacle for broader deployment is the lack of federal incentive funding. Package-carriers "DHL and UPS both put cleaner technology vehicles into use this summer," Environmental Defense spokesman Steven Ertel noted, "but there are some hurdles to overcome as well."

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