That's why news that it's using technology developed by a founder of Tesla Motors to make its trucks way more fuel efficient is so exciting, both for its investors and those who want the planet to breathe easy.
FedEx is working with Wrightspeed, the Silicon Valley-based company founded and run by Ian Wright, who helped create Tesla in 2003. Wright is still all about electric mobility, but his new company doesn't make cars. It makes electric powertrains to be dropped into existing vehicles. And it's sold 25 of them to FedEx for a pilot program.
The Wrightspeed conversion takes an existing conventional truck and replaces all the gas-powered parts that make it move. The engine, differential, and transmission are junked. An electric motor is matched to each drive wheel and a battery pack is thrown in to hold the electricity that powers them. The truck—now an electric vehicle—can be plugged in to charge the 39 kilowatt-hour battery, which holds enough juice to take the truck about 30 miles. Regenerative braking helps capture some extra power, but that's still totally lousy for a vehicle that spends all day driving. So Wrightspeed added an extra ingredient: a diesel-powered turbine to generate electricity while on the road.