E-bikes and BrightDrop electric vans helping FedEx Express Canada meet its corporate zero-emission goals
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EV Fleets
Aug 2, 2022
Mehanaz Yakub

As part of its effort to achieve carbon neutral operations worldwide by 2040, FedEx Express Canada has spearheaded an eight-city e-bike program and is looking to add Brightdrop Zevo 600s and more Trace e-pallets to its delivery fleet

As part of its effort to achieve carbon neutral operations worldwide by 2040, FedEx Express Canada has spearheaded an eight-city e-bike program and is looking to add Brightdrop Zevo 600s and more Trace e-pallets to its delivery fleet. Photo: FedEx

As part of its effort to achieve carbon neutral operations worldwide by 2040, FedEx Express Canada has spearheaded an eight-city e-bike program and is looking to add Brightdrop Zevo 600s and more Trace e-pallets to its delivery fleet

For the past year, FedEx Corp. has been taking concrete steps to reach the company-wide goal of becoming a carbon-neutral business by 2040.

The company earmarked $2 billion to help achieve its objectives, with one of its critical areas of focus being vehicle electrification. However, since FedEx uses a range of vehicles from two to 18 wheels to deliver its packages, the task of electrifying its entire fleet is complex.

“That’s quite a big ask in terms of the next few years, for sure, but we’re very much dedicated to making it happen,” says Jeff Gilbert, senior operations manager in Toronto at FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

FedEx owns over 150,000 vehicles in its global fleet. By 2025, the company’s goal is that half of the new vehicles it purchases will be electric, reaching 100 per cent by 2030. Its ultimate goal is to have a fully zero-emission electric parcel pickup and delivery fleet by 2040.

Gilbert takes Electric Autonomy behind the scenes of FedEx’s decarbonization plans with a deep dive look at the company’s plans for the FedEx Express fleet in Canada.

E-bike programs

A key FedEx Express focus in this country is deploying a fleet of e-bikes equipped with cargo boxes to do last-mile deliveries. The company launched its first North American cargo e-bike pilot program with a fleet of three e-bikes in downtown Toronto two years ago. Gilbert says the program was met with acceptance by both courier riders and the public excited to see FedEx adding to the city’s green biking community.

“[E-bikes] are just a really good complement to our overall strategy that’s going to help with our overall goal of sustainability and our overall goal is carbon neutral by 2040,” explains Gilbert.

“The bikes just make a whole lot of sense because if we talk about curbside management of a truck or any delivery truck for last-mile, you’ll see a truck circling a block trying to find a place to park but for a bike, you can just roll up right in front of a stop, get up and execute that delivery drop quickly.”

Since its launch, the FedEx Express fleet of e-bikes in Toronto has made over 73,485 delivery stops, delivered over 79,650 packages, travelled over 32,527 kilometres and averted 9,042 kg of CO2 emissions.

Building on that success, FedEx expanded the e-bike program throughout the Greater Toronto Area and across the country in Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal, Calgary, Richmond, Vancouver and Windsor.

“We picked those cities, in particular, because the local governments were very conducive to helping us develop the programs in those cities. They all have pretty vibrant biking communities and networks in the city so we were looking for that,” says Gilbert.

FedEX uses the electric Bullitt cargo bike from Danish bike makers Larry vs Harry to deliver packages in Canada. The Bullitt is fitted with a 317-litre box and has a range of 150 km on a single charge. The average ride a FedEx Express courier makes in a day is between 20 and 26 kilometres in Toronto.

As for the financing of the e-bikes, Gilbert says he cannot share cost information but that FedEx Express is “keeping an eye on applicable benefits at all levels of government and those offered by local utilities.”

FedEx also says Canada “is leading the charge in its global e-bike network,” with a total of 43 e-bikes deployed across Canada. The company has a global fleet of 250 e-bikes, operating in countries such as Germany, England, India, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and more.

“It’s fun to be part of all the great initiatives that are happening in Canada, which is a much smaller region in the big global scheme of things,” says Gilbert. “It’s some really exciting times and lots of really great things happening with FedEx in terms of pushing towards our goals”

BrightDrop vans coming to Canada

Since announcing its goals to transition to a fully electric zero-emission fleet by 2040, FedEx Corp has also partnered up with General Motor’s technology startup, BrightDrop, to supply FedEx with a range of electric zero-emission last-mile vans, electric e-pallets and potentially e-bikes in the future.

As part of its vehicle electrification plan, FedEx wants to add more than 20,000 BrightDrop Zevo 600 delivery vans to its fleet in the upcoming years.

FedEx Express’ Southern California facility has already received the first 150 electric vans from the BrightDrop order. But Gilbert says he is “hopeful” that Canada will get its first batch “before the new year,” once the Zevo 600 assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., is operational in the coming months.

“But a lot of it depends on supply chain,” Gilbert explains. “GM has been very great. If you think about how quickly the Zevo 600 went from design to on the road, it’s been pretty remarkable how quickly they’ve done it. We’re hopeful that same sort of speed to the market can help us get some electric trucks in downtown Toronto very quickly.”

While he waits, Gilbert says the city’s only FedEx Ship Centre and 85,000 square feet depot, from which all of Toronto’s FedEx vehicles and e-bikes are deployed, is currently undergoing electrification and charging infrastructure installations to accommodate a future fleet of 40 BrightDrop EVs over the next year.

FedEx Corp. is also encouraging some of its subcontractors — who provide package pick-up and delivery services on behalf of its subsidiary, FedEx Ground — to switch to electric, zero-emission vehicles as well. Many have started incorporating electric vehicles from U.S.-based commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Xos, Inc. In June, the first Xos step vans entered Canada through FedEx Ground contractor Cutone Transport in Toronto.

E-pallets and larger e-bikes

FedEx Express has also worked closely with BrightDrop to develop an electric e-pallet called the Trace. The Trace is a battery-powered dolly that can be activated to help couriers move packages of up to 90 kg. Some Trace e-pallets are already being tested in New York and Toronto.

Looking at densely populated areas, Gilbert says FedEx wouldn’t mind adding more couriers to deliver packages on foot using the e-pallets to complement their sustainability goals.

“I’ve just been working with BrightDrop on a couple of initiatives to have an e-bike developed that could carry one of the Trace units as well,” adds Gilbert. “We’re kind of in talks with them on that so that would be another piece of equipment in our arsenal.”

As FedEx Express continues to look for other ways to decarbonize its fleet, Gilbert says the company is also considering some larger e-bikes that have the capacity to carry more packages with longer range.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that are kind of really great, cool initiatives coming down the pipeline,” he says.

“It’s great to work with people on a common goal and it’s been really fantastic for us.”

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