Michael French, a public relations officer at UPS, noted that the time was right for a composite van. “Fuel prices are unpredictable,” he says. “Composites have been around for some time in passenger cars, so incorporating them into a delivery truck was a logical step.”

Like FedEx, UPS finds the vehicle’s use of traditional fuels to be a benefit on longer routes. The company is currently testing the vehicle in five locations: Albany, New York; Flint, Michigan; Lincoln, Nebraska; Roswell, Georgia and Tucson, Arizona.

These locations represent a wide range of conditions that UPS faces in delivering packages, from extreme temperatures to rough back roads to busy urban streets. According to French, there are few locations where the truck wouldn’t be useful. “The cargo capacity would be the vehicle’s only limiting factor, but the size of the vehicle’s cargo volume is similar to around 25 percent of the 70,000 vehicles in our U.S. delivery fleet,” he says.

Data on fuel economy and vehicle performance will not be available from UPS until after the company closes the test period on December 31, 2011. But the CV-23 is already getting good reviews. “The drivers are very positive about the vehicle, noting its excellent turning radius as a breakout positive,” said French.