Cummins Partners with Purolator to Deliver on the Promise of Electrification

The Purolator-Cummins electric delivery truck is being tested on the streets of Ottawa, Canada’s capital.
The Purolator-Cummins electric delivery truck is being tested on the streets of Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

Purolator Courier Alexis Picard says it’s been cool to drive the all-electric test truck this summer that’s part of a joint project involving the Canadian package delivery company and Cummins. 

First, there is less heat in the cab, which has been nice on warm days in Ottawa. But he’s especially enjoyed the surprise on many of his customers’ faces when he pulls up to deliver something.

“People are expressing excitement toward me driving the vehicle,” Picard said. “But more people, I would say, are shocked when they see me driving a vehicle that doesn’t make any noise and they hear my sound system over the engine.

“It’s a bit of a nice feeling,” he adds with a smile.

The unassuming “VÉHICULE ÉLECTRIQUE” could be an important bridge to the low-carbon future both companies want. Having experimented with various forms of low carbon energy for much of the past decade, Purolator is looking for a powertrain that can realistically replace combustion engines in urban areas.

“It’s not just our customers but our employees who are pushing for change,” said Serge Viola, Purolator’s Director of Asset Management. “But any change must be reliable under all conditions. Our customers expect their packages will be delivered on time. That’s our business.”

For Cummins, the test truck is a chance to learn more about electrification, building on its wealth of experience in hybrid-electric engines as the company establishes a new Electrified Power business. Cummins wants to offer customers a broad product portfolio – including clean diesel, natural gas, hybrids and electrification – so they can choose what works best for them.

“Partnering with Purolator enabled us to be at the forefront of innovation and accelerate our learnings in the field,” said Julie Furber, Executive Director – Electrified Power at Cummins. “We have worked closely with Purolator on customer requirements to design and integrate the powertrain into this vehicle. We look forward to using our learnings on new development opportunities.”

Purolator driver Alexis Picard deliverse a package
Alexis Picard, who frequently drives the Purolator-Cummins electric truck, delivers a package in Ottawa.

KEY CHALLENGES

Purolator has experimented with a variety of approaches to incorporate alternative energy forms into delivery vehicles. The company had a fleet of diesel-electric hybrids, for example, and then experimented with a totally redesigned delivery vehicle that not only used electrified power but also improved driver ergonomics and used space more efficiently. The company even explored hydrogen as an energy source. 

But Purolator has never quite found the right combination of technology, reliability and manufacturing muscle in a partner to keep one of Canada’s most extensive transportation and logistics networks rolling in a new way.

For Viola, implementing electrification comes down to three key challenges:

•    Can the battery range be sufficient to keep vehicles running on some of Purolator’s longer urban routes?

•    Is there a company behind the vehicle with a demonstrated supply chain and service network to produce and service the number of electric vehicles Purolator needs?

•    And perhaps most importantly, what happens if the power goes out overnight at one of Purolator’s hubs?

“I don’t envision having enough off-the-grid generating power at any one site to charge-up 30 or 40 vehicles,” he said.  “We have to have a plan even in the unlikely event that the power goes out overnight at one of our facilities.”

So far, Purolator has been happy with the test truck, Viola said. But he wants to see how it performs on longer routes and in the coldest part of a Canadian winter.

Purolator truck on the highways of Ottawa
The Purolator-Cummins electric truck has logged more than 10,000 kilometers in development and field testing.

WHAT’S BEEN LEARNED

Cummins started work on electric powertrains long before the Electrified Power business started earlier this year. The partnership with Purolator, in fact, goes back to 2016. The test truck contains 12 battery modules totalling 62 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy.  The battery modules can be connected in LEGO-like fashion to store and release the energy that ultimately turns the vehicle’s wheels.  

The truck has logged about 5,304 km (3,296 miles) in field testing and another 6,000 km (3,728 miles) during development testing. On average, it has run about 35 km (21 miles) per day in temperatures ranging from 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this year to 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) over the summer.

Viola said the truck has been able to complete its route and get back to the garage for recharging with plenty of power to spare. The company has started putting it on a 70-km route to learn more about its limits.

“Our driver has been a little nervous coming back, but we’ve never had a problem,” he said.

Cummins’ plan is to run the test vehicle for 12 full months, gather as much information as possible, and use what is learned in the company’s future product offerings. Cummins has pledged to have an all-electric powertrain for urban buses on the market by the end of 2019. 

The company is focusing on the urban bus and truck markets initially because that’s where it thinks the infrastructure for electrification will develop first. Cummins believes it has the manufacturing expertise and service network to quickly play a leading role in the electrification market. 

While pleased with the test so far, Viola is reluctant to predict just when much of Purolator’s fleet will be electrified. He’s waiting for a partner that can build 300 to 400 trucks and meet the company’s key challenges, first.

Includes reporting by Katie Davage, Senior Communications Specialist - Electrified Power 
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Trusted because it's tested: Cummins-powered GILLIG Battery Electric Bus

Cummins-powered GILLIG Battery Electric Bus

Trusted because it’s tested.  

What do sand bags, mountains, a drone and a film crew all have in common? Well, not much, except that they were all an important part of GILLIG and Cummins’ effort to illustrate the extent of the testing and validation process for the Cummins-powered GILLIG battery electric bus.  

Since 2017 when Cummins and GILLIG announced the partnership to work together on developing an industry-leading all-electric powertrain, both organizations have worked diligently to engineer, test and validate our offering. This is no easy feat, but one that helps distinguish us from the competition. As we bring forward new technologies, we do so with the same commitment to quality customers have come to expect. But how?  

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  - Thomas Edison

Testing and validation 

A critical piece in bringing forth best-in-class solutions is Cummins commitment to test and validate our offerings against the needs of the customer. For our battery electric system (BES), this means validating products on a component level (e.g. Cummins proprietary BP74E batteries), a powertrain level, and even more broadly working with GILLIG to test performance of the overall bus.  

Ultimately, like most students taking a test, we want to pass. But, just as Thomas Edison noted, the ability to innovate would not be complete without small failures along the way. Testing, and not succeeding is also critical to the process. The failed tests provide insight on the current limits of a product so that designs can be adjusted, and performance optimized to meet the many different scenarios our customers will see in their daily work. We’d be failing our customers, without a few failures along the way.  

Real world conditions

GILLIG and Cummins also take pride in validating our products under real world scenarios, not just ideal conditions. To this end, which was illustrated recently in the gradeability test for the GILLIG bus, various tests were run on the bus as it was loaded with sandbags to simulate the weight of passengers. A powertrain that can operate efficiently, but can only do so empty, is of no value to a community looking to transport people all day, every day.  

Similarly, we work closely with field test customers to refine solutions and deliver a trusted and reliable product. Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, who received the first field test bus in July 2019, has been a critical partner in providing feedback using real routes and day-to-day operating scenarios. Working with valued customers and end users to identify opportunities that can be enhanced is crucial. The collaboration and partnership that field test customers provide allows us to deliver a product that will meet and exceed customer expectations. Thankfully, the field test has gone well, and as testament to that Big Blue Bus announced that they will be purchasing 18 additional electric buses.  

Trust: a commitment we take seriously 

So, the next time you’re driving up a mountain or simply travelling in your city, and see a Cummins-powered GILLIG battery electric bus, rest assured that it has been through an extensive testing process to ensure safety and reliability. Our customers and communities trust us – and that is something we don’t take lightly.  

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

The Future of Fleets: The four keys to electrification – Part 4

Future of Fleets Zero Emissions

When it comes to battery electric vehicles, there are four keys to adoption within the commercial vehicle sector. In Part 4 of our four-part blog series, we look at the final hurdle a new technology must overcome: Policies and regulation. 

In this fourth preview blog, we look at how policy and regulations regarding commercial EVs must be carefully developed in collaboration with industries and institutions. Sustainability, after all, is not an issue limited to any one sector, and only by drawing on the insight of experts in the technology, infrastructure, and economics of EVs, as well as end-users and other policymakers, will successful incentives to adoption be designed. 

If you are reading this series for the first time, you can find part one here, part two here and part three here. 

Regulatory surety

Finding the right focus will require ongoing conversation, consultation, and collaboration with stakeholders from across the mobility space. The range of routes here is broad: long-term zero-pollution targets will set the overall direction of travel for industry; cross-industry working groups will establish proven technological standards; policies which fund, and remove barriers to, infrastructure rollout will create progress on usability; sustainability stipulations in contracts put out to tender will demonstrate economic viability and create a market for sustainable vehicles; collaborative work on data sharing will improve monitoring and efficiency; and linking tax rates with emissions will improve return-on-investment. 

While the range of options is daunting, there are already examples of best practice emerging across the world. A recent report from the environmental research group Bellona, for example, details the nature of some policy initiatives which are already seeing positive outcomes in construction, which currently accounts for 23% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  

In the Norwegian capital of Oslo, for example, the city’s municipal developer has operated a series of initiatives involving setting minimum standards for bidders on contracts it puts out to tender. The developer adopted the policy that ‘what can be run on electric, shall be run on electric’ – creating the potential for a market for electrified construction equipment. Looking ahead, the city anticipates that by 2025 all public construction sites will operate emission-free machinery and transport. 

Part of the success of Oslo’s initiative, besides the determination of stakeholders to make it work, may be in the phrasing of its policy. By using the phrasing ‘what can be run on electric’, the city avoids forcing construction firms into inappropriate adoption (such as electrifying what is not yet suitable to be electrified) and opens a dialogue with them about what can and cannot be electrified, working cooperatively on progress towards sustainability. 

Bringing it all together 

All over the world, progress is being made through hard work to bring the technological capabilities of EVs up to the level where they meet the requirements of commercial applications. 

This requires us to understand their infrastructural requirements and make them clearly actionable, to bring their total cost of ownership down to a level where they compete with and exceed conventional vehicles, and to produce policy which incentivizes their adoption. 

For Cummins, the process of finding the right solution is always a collaborative effort. Getting it right means having conversations across stakeholders in industry and policy, as well as end-users, to deeply understand the issues and ensure successful roll-out. 

To learn more, please visit our ‘Future of Fleets’ whitepaper, which looks at the four keys to electrification, with insights from a range of industry experts including Addison Lee, dg:cities and Nuvve. 
 

Download the 'Future of Fleets' report (PDF)

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

The Future of Fleets: The four keys to electrification – Part 3

Electrified Power - Future of Fleets - Economic Reality BP 3

When it comes to battery electric vehicles, there are four keys to adoption within the commercial vehicle sector. In Part 3 of our four-part blog series, we look at the third hurdle a new technology must overcome: Economic feasibility. 

 

At present, EVs are often more expensive than their conventionally-powered equivalents. One reason for this is inherent material costs, with battery manufacture requiring large quantities of lithium. Yet, as processes are refined, efficiencies are found, and scale increases, the manufacturing costs of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are expected to reduce – and the reduction of this cost will be a major enabler for early commercial electric vehicles (EVs) adoption.

In this third part of the ‘Future of Fleets’ whitepaper preview series, we look at the economic considerations for electrification. If you are reading this series for the first time, you can find part one here and part two here.

Economic reality 

Today, the economic decision-making involved in purchasing commercial vehicles is familiar to anyone involved in fleet management. It can be broadly divided into capital expenditure (the up-front cost of the vehicle and infrastructure), operating expenses, and the day to day costs of running the vehicle such as fuel and maintenance requirements. 

EV adoption can involve significant outlay, which varies widely depending on application. While the growing availability of on-street charging points can be leveraged for some commercial vehicle fleets, such as last-mile delivery vans, for other applications, such as buses, owned infrastructure is necessary. New electric fleets may, in fact, demand entirely new configurations of buildings. Charging points can however be shared, meaning that the upfront cost can be reduced. In this way, large electrification projects can deliver a better return on investment than smaller projects.  

From an operational perspective, the two main cost areas are energy and maintenance. Energy costs for EVs are dependent on electricity prices, much as fuel costs today are ultimately dependent on oil prices. Maintenance costs may be minimized through the use of telematics to monitor wear and tear and accurately predict when servicing is required. 

While major capital expenditure is clearly involved, through a combination of falling prices over time and efficiency savings from vehicles sharing charging points, EVs can be – and in the case of delivery trucks already are – economically competitive with diesel options.

How does policy and regulation impact electrification of commercial vehicles? Find out in next week’s ‘Future of Fleets’ blog series.

Download the 'Future of Fleets' report (PDF)

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

The Future of Fleets: The four keys to electrification - Part 2

Electrified Power - Future of Fleets - Infrastructure

When it comes to battery electric vehicles, there are four keys to adoption within the commercial vehicle sector. In Part 2 of our four-part blog series, we look at the second hurdle a new technology must overcome: Infrastructure.

 

Much of the infrastructure required to practically use an electrified vehicle (EV) is already in place: roads, traffic lights, car parks and systems of vehicle registration are all agnostic as to how the vehicles they accommodate are powered. 

The way energy is delivered to vehicles, however, must change in tandem with the move to EVs, replacing the well-developed network of oil-based fuel delivery we currently rely on with charging points and a power grid that can support them. In this second preview blog of the ‘Future of Fleets’ whitepaper, we look at how work on infrastructure will enable electric commercial vehicle adoption. If you are reading this series for the first time, you can find part one here.  

Infrastructural capacity  

For a typical electric passenger car, fully recharging from a standard U.K. power outlet will take over 10 hours. For commercial vehicles, this level of downtime introduces significant costs – exacerbated by the fact that commercial vehicles are often larger and heavier, and therefore require larger batteries which take longer to recharge. 

For situations where a certain number of vehicle-hours is mandated by the operation, this downtime factor has a range of consequences for infrastructure design. If the vehicles are being charged at a centralized hub, for example, each vehicle needs a parking space for the period of charging. Here, halving the charging time of a vehicle means halving the physical space needed by the recharging infrastructure, as well as halving the number of charge points which need to be purchased and installed. 

The energy for EV recharging, of course, also comes from somewhere. EVs will get their energy either from on-site power generation, such as solar and wind power, or from the national grid. For energy companies, this represents a challenge as, especially at peak charging times, the overall demand on power stations as more vehicles become battery-powered increases. One solution to this will be to use smart charging solutions, which supply energy overnight, when the electricity demand from households and industry is lower. 

Widespread adoption of EVs offers a surprising benefit: the large capacity of vehicle batteries creates the possibility for vehicles not currently in use to help balance national power supply with demand, which will become increasingly important as less predictable renewable energy sources become a more dominant part of our energy mix. Making this win-win possible requires further collaboration between commercial vehicle operators, utilities, legislators and technology vendors. 

Stay tuned for the next blog in our series, in which we will discuss how the economics of fleet ownership affect electrification. 

Download the 'Future of Fleets' report (PDF)

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

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