Continuing its ongoing efforts to increase the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet operations, FedEx Express is adding 24 new electric vehicles (EV)to its fleet and is testing five composite vans from Isuzu and Utilimaster. The company also said it is continuing to put into service 45 new P&D trucks from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. , which are equipped with Eaton hybrid-electric drive systems, and is purchasing 4,000 new Sprinter vans powered by fuel-efficient BlueTec ‘clean diesel’ engines for its higher-mileage routes, which represents about 10% of its total fleet.

“We are using efficient technologies that are readily available now, while investing in innovative technologies that we hope and believe can be vehicle workhorses for the future,” said Dennis Beal, vp of Global Vehicles, FedEx Express. “Our goal has always been to optimize and operate our vehicle fleet in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, so that emissions are reduced while serving our customers in the best possible manner.”

But the big news is the addition of 24 all-electric vehicles, comprised of 15 Navistar eStar vans, two FCCC eCell electric vehicles, two FCCC electric-vehicle retrofits, and five Ford Transit Connect Electric trucks.

Once these are all deployed, FedEx Express will have an all-electric fleet of 43 vehicles in service.

The electrics will be put into service in New York, Chicago, and Memphis. The company is currently running 19 all-electric vehicles in Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Deployment will take about two months, FedEx Express said.

The eStar is a Class 2c-3 electric truck with a range of up to 100 mi. per charge that can be fully recharged within six to eight hours. According to Navistar, the vehicle’s low center of gravity and 36-ft. turning circle offers a competitive advantage. The eStar also features a “quick-change” cassette-type battery that can be swapped out in 20 minutes, the OEM noted.

Part of the deployment of these new vehicles will be to study their impact and efficiency. In New York, FedEx Express will work with GE and Columbia University’s Engineering School to study the effect a large vehicle deployment will have on the energy grid.

In Memphis, FedEx Express will deploy retrofitted vehicles, converting conventional vans into all-electric models using the existing vehicle bodies. It will also operate the new Transit Connect Electric vans from Ford Motor Co. and Azure Dynamics as part of the support network for the Information Technology Asset Disposal program, driving regularly scheduled routes to pick up, recycle, reuse and dispose of IT assets.

The eCells and 45 FCCC/Eaton hybrid-electric vans will be added to the Los Angeles fleet. The eCell has a range of up to 100 mi. with a top speed of 65 mph on power generated by a 120kW electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. It takes 6 to 8 hours to full charge the vehicle with a standard 220-volt outlet, FCCC said.

“Different vehicles are appropriate for different routes,” said Keshav Sondhi, manager of Asset Management for FedEx Express Global Vehicles. “The key is to use the right truck for the mission on the right route.

“ FedEx Express is adding all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles to dense urban routes that have a lot of starting and stopping,” he continued. “This use of regenerative braking and electric motors significantly improves the efficiency of the vehicles on such urban routes.”

FedEx Express, like its competitor UPS, is also testing a composite-construction delivery vehicle. Dubbed the ‘Reach,’” the van is a 2011 Eco-Max chassis from Isuzu Commercial Truck of North America fitted with a composite body from Utilimaster Corp., a subsidiary of Spartan Motors.

FedEx Express is testing five of the vehicles in Detroit, Memphis, Jackson (TN), and Jonesboro (AR). According to the company, the Reach is able to achieve 35% better fuel economy than a diesel-equipped van, and is built with a smaller, more efficient engine and composite materials that include recycled rubber, resin, fiberglass and poly core to reduce vehicle weight.