UPS today announced it has placed an order for 50 hybrid electric delivery trucks, as well as acquire 4,100 low emission conventional vehicles during 2006.

The new generation hybrid electric trucks will feature lithium ion batteries that are capable of faster recharging and have a longer life than batteries used in previous hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). The HEVs are being purchased in two sizes from International Truck & Engine and Freightliner LLC. The truck bodies will be identical to to UPS’s familiar diesel-powered brown vans.

The 50 HEVs will collectively reduce fuel consumption by 44,000 gallons over a year compared with a conventional diesel truck, UPS said. In addition, it will reduce emissions by 457 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The hybrid electric vehicle uses a small fuel-efficient diesel engine that acts as a generator to provide electrical energy for the batteries and drive motors, which in turn assume the primary role of powering the vehicle. The truck draws additional power from the small diesel engine when necessary. In addition, it utilizes regenerative braking, which stores electrical energy generated when brakes are applied in the battery system.

“We’re excited to be among the first to deploy the latest in HEV technology because it promises a 35% increase in fuel economy in addition to a dramatic decrease in vehicle emissions,” said Robert Hall, fleet environmental manager. “UPS has been involved in HEV research for more than eight years, but that’s just one part of a multifaceted strategy to reduce fuel dependency, cut greenhouse emissions and in the long run, reduce operating costs.”

Meanwhile, the 4,100 low emission vehicles will offer a 15% improvement in fuel economy compared with the vehicles it retires. Collectively it will save 1.5 million gallons of fuel and emit 16,000 few tons of carbon dioxide annually, UPS said.

The majority of the 4,100 low emission vehicles chassis purchased in 2006 will be made by Freightliner and will be put into service throughout the year as older trucks are retired.

For more information on UPS’s new green vehicle program, www.ups.com.