Sustainable Transportation Goes Further than FedEx

Finding solutions to the planet's environmental challenges is not something that can happen in silos.
May 23, 2014 10:20 AM ET
Campaign: FedEx | Reports

Environment & Efficiency Story

Finding solutions to the planet's environmental challenges is not something that can happen in silos. At FedEx, we believe in working together with our peers, suppliers, experts and other innovators to look for transformational solutions to reduce fuel and energy consumption. And we're not just finding answers that work for FedEx, we research and test pioneering technologies that can transform entire industries and have a positive effect on society at large.

Electrifying Transportation
Connecting people and business the world over means we have a large transportation-related carbon footprint, so reducing our carbon emissions is a big focus of our innovation and collaboration efforts. One of the areas where we see big potential to cut emissions is in short-haul transportation, which happens most frequently in dense, urban areas. We believe there is an opportunity to build infrastructure in cities like New York, Washington DC, Hong Kong, London and Paris that could revolutionize transportation for everyone—businesses, commuters, visitors—and that's why we've been investing in electric vehicle charging stations in these cities.

Our long-term goal is to see the electrification of short-haul surface transportation. To achieve this, we are collaborating with GE ecomagination, Con Edison and Columbia University Engineering on a pilot project in Manhattan, New York on how to operate effective vehicle charging stations. We want to demonstrate the feasibility of this technology when implemented appropriately.

Developing the Infrastructure to Support Electric Vehicle Expansion
We currently have 10 all-electric vehicles, which use Con Edison's distribution network to charge their batteries. Our research uses advanced technology to measure real-time electrical vehicle charging station and building usage information. This information is then used to predict the future load profiles for the building and charging infrastructure to coordinate optimal charging strategies to minimize FedEx station peak demand.

Matthew Nielsen from GE Global Research describes the impact of our collaboration:

“We believe that an intelligent ecosystem such as that being developed in New York City will be required in the future to dynamically balance the fuelling needs of electric vehicles with the limitations imposed by our existing electrical distribution system. This collaboration was the first truly comprehensive study on the usage of electric delivery vehicles and associated fuelling infrastructure.

The program has provided many useful insights into the limits of the existing electrical distribution system in supporting the fuelling of electrified transportation. More importantly, the research has created a means to balance business critical needs such as the daily usage of the vehicles in normal delivery routes with the limitations of the electrical power system. The team has also gained valuable insights through extensive data collection on the actual usage and charging patterns of fleet vehicles.

The technology developed under the program along with the key learnings gained as a result of the collaboration will help ensure that the promises of electric delivery vehicles can be reached. These include reduced fuel costs, decreased emissions, and increased productivity. The work done to date as well as the team's future plans will be vitally important to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, especially those in a commercial fleet setting.

Collaborations such as this one are absolutely essential in order to solve the truly hard challenges associated with achieving a sustainable transportation sector.”

Our innovations don't stop on the ground. We work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other industry groups on initiatives that benefit the entire airline industry. For example, we've worked together for more than a decade to update and clarify wake turbulence separation standards. These standards specify the minimum safe distance between two planes in order to avoid the turbulent air that is generated behind an aircraft. As a result of this work, the FAA recategorized aircrafts and updated their guidance for arrivals and departures on closely spaced runways in 2013.

Due to our excellent relationship with Air Traffic Control, the FAA chose Memphis International Airport, the location of our global hub and the world's second busiest freight airport, to pilot these new standards. As a result of the changes, we are saving more than 350,000 gallons of fuel and eliminating 3,530 metric tons of CO2e emissions each month. In addition, reduced taxi time provides space for 9 additional departures an hour, as well as 18 additional arrivals an hour due to reduced time flying in the terminal airspace. This greater efficiency is equivalent to building a new runway at the airport.

Following the success of the program's implementation in Memphis by FedEx, the FAA has implemented the new standards in Louisville and Cincinnati, and plans to do so in San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston and Philadelphia. They project the change will increase efficiency by an average of seven percent at these airports.

"FedEx really advocated for the program as a way to increase capacity while gaining environmental benefits,” said Teri Bristol, chief operating officer of the FAA's air traffic organization. “They made a strong case for implementing the new standards. As a result of this collaboration, we will realize significant benefits at other airports.”