FedEx Express has placed a "large" order for the Reach commercial van put into production last month by Utilimaster Corporation and Isuzu Commercial Truck. The vehicles, which claim 35% better fuel economy than standard walk-in vans, are to be delivered to FedEx by the end of this year.

The package-delivery fleet has been operating five Reach pilot vehicles on delivery routes in Arkansas, Tennessee and Michigan since the van's introduction in March 2011, the companies said. Success with them led to the order, but FedEx declined to say how many units it involves.

"We have been working with Utilimaster and Isuzu since conception to develop a long-life, fuel efficient vehicle that supports the FedEx strategic sustainability objectives," said Dennis Beal, the company's vice president of Global Vehicles.

"They right-sized the engine down to a more fuel efficient 3 liters and reduced weight with composite material while maintaining a strong chassis and a spacious interior. The vans are performing well on our routes, and reducing our fuel costs as well as our carbon footprint."

The improved fuel economy and reduced carbon footprint are the result of an aerodynamic, lightweight composite body designed by Utilimaster atop an Isuzu NPR Eco-Max chassis powered by Isuzu's 3-liter, 4-cylinder 4JJ1-TC diesel.

The Reach's high fuel economy reduces carbon dioxide emissions by more than 11 tons per vehicle per year, the companies said.