Instantly recognizable with its bright yellow delivery vehicles and red logo, Germany-based shipping and courier company DHL turned to Ford for the latest EV additions to its van fleet. The two companies publicly announced the deal at the start of December 2022.
Representatives and executives told reporters Ford agreed to build 2,000 E-Transit electric delivery vans for DHL by 2023’s end. Most will haul packages and mail in Europe, but Ford will also provide several dozen to DHL’s American operations.
Ford’s 2023 E-Transit vans will add up to less than 7% of DHL’s total EV delivery van fleet. However, the Blue Oval has its foot in the door for future contracts with a major shipper. The Ford E-Transit van has a chance to prove its mettle to the company’s new commercial customer.
Ford could win future contracts both from DHL and from other commercial shipping carriers if the E-Transit successfully shows its worth. Meanwhile, DHL has the opportunity to move closer to its net-zero carbon goals.
DHL’s Electrification Plans
DHL started its GoGreen environmental protection initiative 14 years ago in 2008. Its goal is to cut “logistics-related emissions to zero by the year 2050” and achieve fully “green logistics.” The company started buying EVs to transport goods as soon as these became available and viable.
However, when 2021 rolled around, DHL wasn’t satisfied with its progress toward eco-friendly delivery fleets. Its executives opted to accelerate the “green” transport plan, announcing a new “roadmap” in late March 2021.
They upped spending on the switch to net-zero carbon vehicles to 7 billion Euros by 2030. This sum is close to $7.5 billion in 2022 dollars.
DHL set the first milestone of 60% EV use in its last-mile delivery fleet by 2030. It will have to replace 80,000 of its gasoline and diesel vans with electric vans to meet this goal. DHL notes this is just the first step in its plan to have 100% EV or sustainable-fuel vehicles by 2050.
It plans to shift even its aerial transport to eco-friendly machines by that time. The company placed an order with Eviation Aircraft Ltd. in August 2021 for 12 “Alice” electric aircraft. Eviation designed the aircraft to fly 440 miles on a charge, carry 2,600 lbs, and recharge in 30 minutes.
DHL intends to use these light cargo aircraft in California starting in 2024. In the more down-to-earth area of operations, DHL just added over 2,000 Ford E-Transit vans to its pool.
The Ford E-Transit: What Is It?
Ford makes its E-Transit cargo van as an all-electric, battery-powered EV designed for short-range delivery. The EV van’s battery offers 126 miles range per charge, too short for long-haul transport.
Operators have plenty of range available for delivering in metropolitan areas, however. The vans look practically identical to ordinary “sprinter” vans used for local delivery, by small businesses and the like.
The Blue Oval builds its E-Transit vans in multiple configurations, including short bodies, long bodies, and low or high roofs. The van hauls a payload between 3,330 lbs and 3,880 lbs depending on the variant. Its cargo volume measures 246 to 487 cubic feet.
The E-Transit features onboard power to charge electronics and operate electric tools. DHL, as a shipping company, is less likely to need this feature, but it will be available. Engineers gave Ford’s EV van rear-wheel drive to improve traction.
Ford also provides access to its nationwide Ford BlueOval Charging Network for commercial customers operating the E-Transit. There are currently approximately 75,000 network chargers available across the United States. The automaker claims the use of electric motors reduces E-Transit fleet maintenance costs by 40%.
The Ford E-Transit van may qualify for a tax break as a commercial EV under the Inflation Reduction Act. It weighs less than 14,000 lbs, capping the potential tax credit at $7,500 per vehicle versus up to $40,000 for bigger trucks.
However, Inflation Reduction Act qualifications are much less stringent on commercial EVs than passenger EVs. The government may give DHL the $7,500 tax break per van regardless of whether the van’s batteries are sourced in the USA.
2,000 Ford EV Vans for Europe
DHL ordered 2,000 E-Transit vans for use by its European operations, inking a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ford in early December 2022. The companies say Ford will deliver all the vans by the end of 2023.
Ford has already provided DHL with the first group of E-Transit vans in time for holiday season deliveries, Electrek reports. The exact number of E-Transits currently operating in DHL’s fleets isn’t publicly known.
DHL says it chose to start ordering E-Transits because of the range, payload, and logistical support Ford’s van offers. Other companies also seem to like the E-Transit as an electric last-mile delivery sprinter.
Hans Schep, a Ford Pro executive in Europe, pointed out the van is the “top-selling commercial EV in North America and since June is also the best-seller in its segment in Europe” in a press release related to DHL’s order.
Ford may have some stiff competition for DHL’s fleet electrification purchases, however. General Motors (GM) just rolled out its BrightDrop 600 cargo van and DHL recently placed an order for these EVs, too.
The BrightDrop 600 should have a 250-mile range, almost doubling the E-Transit’s, and 600 cubic feet of cargo space. Though the BrightDrop van offers greater range and hauling capability, DHL intends to use it only in Canada for now.
Adding Ford E-Transits to Its Palo Alto Fleet
Drivers on California’s sunny streets will soon also see Ford E-Transits in DHL’s bright yellow livery too. California lawmakers passed some of the strongest net-zero vehicle regulations in the USA.
It’s probably unsurprising that DHL wants to electrify its shipping vehicles there first. California also has an extensive EV charger network, helping increase the practicality of DHL’s planned rollout.
DHL says it will add 45 E-Transits to its Palo Alto area delivery fleet in the immediate future. The CEO of its American operations, Greg Hewitt, says the nearly four dozen EVs comprise “the largest order of electric vehicles we have made in the U.S. thus far.”
DHL will have all 45 of its new Palo Alto vans operational before December 31st, 2022. But more are also on the way. The company plans to add 130 more EV delivery vans to its California lineup between 2023 and 2024. However, while it hinted strongly these extra vans will be E-Transits, it didn’t actually specify all of the vans would come from Ford.
DHL’s Ford Pro Access
Ford is providing DHL with more than just a stable of newly-manufactured EV delivery vans. The automaker also provides its shipping sector partner with Ford Pro support. Ford will ensure DHL’s E-Transits operate at peak efficiency with its backup systems.
DHL noted in a press release that it expects Ford’s assistance will “maximize uptime, service and productivity,” cutting costs and boosting profits. What this means in practice is that Ford Pro will help coordinate the actions of DHL’s EV van fleet.
Using its telematics, Ford Pro will monitor where the E-Transits are and what they’re doing, directing them to routes and payloads to get maximum work out of the vehicles. It has a communications network associated with its Ford Pro monitoring to make managing a fleet fast and practical.
The E-Telematics program also collects data so the commercial customer can operate even more efficiently in the future. Beyond finding the best routes to maximize deliveries and minimize “deadhead” time (driving with no-paying cargo), Ford Pro offers DHL another advantage.
This is full access to its “charging management system.” Ford Pro consultants will help work out a charging program for the E-Transit vans (and probably DHL’s electric fleet overall). Ford’s personnel and software will tailor a recharging scheme minimizing charging costs and boosting EV van availability as high as possible.
What Does the Future Hold?
DHL’s purchase of 2,000 Ford E-Transit vans is likely just the tip of the iceberg. It still needs approximately 50,000 more EV vans to reach its goal of electrifying 60% of its fleet by 2030. It will probably buy from multiple sources, as its recent purchase of GM BrightDrop 600 vans shows.
But once the Ford E-Transit proves it can handle the job, DHL seems likely to buy more. This is probably especially true for the US market, where it can potentially win a $7,500 tax credit for each E-Transit bought.
Ford Pro adds another wrinkle to the equation of whether DHL decides to buy more E-Transits beyond the initial 2,000. DHL isn’t just buying vehicles, but also a whole electronic “ecosystem” to make them run efficiently and profitably.
Ford Pro provides E-Telematics to track and organize the E-Transit fleet, as well as charging coordination to keep it running smoothly. Even if the GM BrightDrop 600 is longer-range and larger, it doesn’t come with the same support structure. Therefore, DHL seems likely to order more E-Transit vans from Ford once the initial 2,000 are all on the road.