UPS sets sights on electric vertical aircraft and alternative fuel technology

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2021

Nearly 22 million packages are delivered by UPS across 220 countries every day. Its operation is so massive that it requires employing more than 540,000 people across the world and deploying about 2,285 flights each day at different strategic airports.

The company which was first opened in 1907 in a Seattle, Washington basement by two teenage entrepreneurs, Claude Ryan and Jim Casey, with just a $100 loan and named as the American Messenger Company, is now the world’s largest package delivery service.

Supporting its operations are more than 12,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles deployed worldwide.

And with the world embracing more innovation and policies to help stave off the devastating impact of climate change, UPS is exploring more ingenious options in saving the planet, time and resources in carrying out its job.


UPS or United Parcel Service announced it is buying dozens of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies (BETA) as part of its innovation-driven strategy to identify new ways to help small businesses with sustainable solutions.

Under their agreement, BETA will first design and build 10 of its Alia-250 eVTOLs due for delivery to UPS by 2024, pending approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration. UPS has the option to buy up to 150 of this model.

BETA sees its agreement with UPS as a major milestone in the future of eVTOL in the commercial global aviation and logistics market.

Powered by an electric batter, this plane can carry 1,400 pounds and can travel up to 250 miles at 170 mph once fully charged with zero emissions.

“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers and the environment,” said Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer. “These new aircraft will create operational efficiencies in our business, open possibilities for new services and serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce the emissions profile of our air and ground operation.”

With the capability to take off and land directly on UPS property, eVTOL aircraft are perfect for moving smaller loads that would otherwise fly to and from airports on small feeder aircraft or take even longer by ground.

UPS has reserved BETA’s recharging station for safe and rapid charging of the aircraft in under one hour to facilitate faster cargo loading and unloading. The charging station also offers the aircraft’s batteries a second life. After the batteries’ first lifecycle in the aircraft is over, they can be fitted to the charging station to recharge the aircraft’s onboard batteries as well as UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles.

Fernhay eQuad to debut at Expo 2020 Dubai

As the official logistics partner of Expo 2020 Dubai (1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022), UPS said it will show how rethinking logistics and sustainability is good for both business and the world by highlighting its sustainable urban delivery vehicles.

This includes the debut of the Fernhay eQuad. Less than three feet wide, the four-wheeled electric-assist cycle is catering to complex urban deliveries allowing the driver to easily move through congested narrow streets and to pedal in bike/cycle lanes.

“The eQuads are specifically designed with changes in urban delivery in mind,” said Luke Wake, vice president of maintenance and engineering. “Many cities around the world not only have more pedestrian areas but are also growing fast, resulting in more package deliveries in busy areas inaccessible to larger vehicles. The eQuad is a solution that can deliver throughout cities reducing noise, emissions and congestion.”

The eQuad started its journey in the U.K. and made stops in France and Germany, before arriving in the UAE, where it will be showcased at Expo 2020 Dubai. This new vehicle builds on UPS’s growing fleet of sustainable delivery solutions that improves air quality, decreases congestion and reduces emissions.

UPS’s use of eQuads complements its three-wheeled Rytle eBikes which will also be showcased during the expo and are perfect for navigating dense urban areas.

UPS will also feature its futuristic Arrival EVs. Developed in partnership with U.K.-based transportation technology firm Arrival, these vehicles use state-of-art charging technology to provide more than 150 miles of travel on a single charge – a longer range than other vehicles.

“We are very excited to have these great technologies at Expo 2020,” said Alan Williams, vice president, Expo 2020 sponsorships and operations. “We have a unique opportunity to showcase innovation and our sustainable logistics that will take us into the future.”