I don't think UPS has to make a decision between reducing operating costs or delivering more packages. The company says this particular truck is best suited to urban use, where its narrower size makes it easier to get around--and therefore speeding deliveries. As the article states, the 900 lbs difference is in the truck's weight, not the weight of its contents, and the contents difference is measured in cubic feet: it's about 70 cubic feet smaller.
So now on to the difficult decision: Reduce operating costs or deliver 900 lbs more packages without raising the current cost. Ether way, it is a huge win. Hooray for enterprise for innovating new cost savings in transportation. All we got from government was a PSA about correct tire inflation.
It appears that UPS is in good company with their decision to explore the use of composite materials. I've read about several other pilot projects in the mass transit and delivery sector where they are out in front leveraging both new materials and alternative energy vehicles to try to cut operating costs. Given that the trucks are the fuel constitute huge operating costs, the strategy makes a whole lot of sense.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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