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Development and Commercialization of Hybrid Trucks Gaining Momentum

The 6th annual meeting of the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), held this week in San Diego, California, provided an indication of the increasing momentum behind commercialization efforts for a variety of hybrid technologies for a range of truck fleet applications.

The annual meeting was the group’s largest yet, with some 325 attendees including about 75 attendees from almost 50 fleets. A ride-and-drive demonstration featured 14 different hybrid truck and bus models, including electric and hydraulic systems, ranging from shuttle buses through heavy-duty Class 8 trucks.

HTUF is a national, multi-year, user-driven program to assist in the commercialization of heavy-duty hybrid technologies. The program is operated by WestStart-CALSTART in partnership with the US Army’s National Automotive Center (NAC). The Hewlett Foundation provides support funding and the Department of Energy provides project funding.

HTUF’s approach is to organize and support working groups of fleet users from different industry and application areas. Active working groups are:

  • Utility/Specialty vehicles (currently in deployment and testing);
  • Parcel Delivery vehicles (pre-production with hydraulic hybrid technology);
  • Refuse vehicles (nearing pre-production stage); and
  • Shuttle Bus (characterizing market needs).

A Beverage/Water/Regional Delivery working group is on standby.

The working groups presented short updates on their status during the general HTUF meeting.

Utility. The Utility Truck working group began in 2002, and began deploying the first 24 hybrid trucks into the 14 participating fleets this year. The trucks, built by International and Eaton (earlier post) combine a 225 hp diesel with a 44 kW electric motor. The truck supports engine-off PTO operation, and offers 25 kW of export power.

The group is measuring the performance data of the trucks against baseline units, but the data is not yet to the point for presentation.

Earlier this summer, the group decided to move into Phase 2—the purchase of 100 additional hybrid units. Production on those units will start late this year or early next year, and continue through Fall 2007. Of those 100 units, roughly 60 will be utility trouble truck models, and the others will support other types of applications in the utility group.

The working group is considering a Phase 3 project with 500+ trucks being ordered.

The working group is also considering the requirements for a further expanded effort to move to the next level of production. This would broaden the application of hybrids into other fields, including tree-trimming, cable, telecom, delivery, shuttle and other applications on a similar chassis.

Accordingly, the group has launched a Class-5 truck effort. The working group needs to refine performance requirements because of different weight limitations, payload concerns, packaging requirements and price points.

The working group also has a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) task force as a subset. There is a group of 30+ fleets looking at PHEV variants of hybrids across different work groups. A critical focus at this point is defining user expectations and performance requirements for PHEVs to be commercially successful.

The PHEV task force has agreed to organize a PHEV workshop day before the Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicle conference in February 2007.

As a sidenote, some of the utilities (Florida Power and Light and Georgia Power) are using B20 biodiesel blends—not just in the hybrids, but across their diesel fleet. Neither reported any problems with B20 use across a broad range of engines.

Refuse.The Refuse working group was launched in January 2005, with 7 US fleets and the participation of the Canadian Hybrid Truck Users Group (CHTUG). Defining a common duty-cycle requirement is difficult—different fleets have very different trucks in operation, and with different drive cycle requirements. Suburban single-family home refuse pickup, for example, is quite different than urban alley refuse pickup.

The working group has devised broad specifications, with concentration on rear-loaders and automated side-loaders, and with the understanding that this is a chassis suitable for a variety of uses in the refuse industry.

The group is looking for either electric or hydraulic drive design, with an improvement of 50% or greater in fuel economy. The group is focused on the chassis, not the body. Trucks will be shipped to refuse body upfitters for body installation.

The working group has mailed out its Request for Information to manufacturers. The goal is to issue the final Request for Proposals by the end of 2006 or the first quarter of 2007 for up to 20 pre-production trucks delivered to 12 fleets. Delivery of the first validated hybrid refuse truck is targeted for the end of 2007, with deployment into the fleets by 2008.

Parcel. The Parcel Delivery group is similar to the refuse group, and currently has five fleets representing the bulk of parcel delivery in the US: FedEx Express and Ground, UPS, Purolator and USPS.

We’re focused on hydraulic hybrids only at this point. The hybrid-electric parcel delivery truck industry is already relatively mature.

—Jerry Swart, Managing Director Environmental Services, FedEx Ground

FedEx currently has 90 hybrid-electric delivery trucks in service.

The Parcel working group issues two RFPs in August: one for 14 Class-4 hydraulic hybrid parcel delivery trucks, the other for 10 Class-6 hydraulic hybrid parcel delivery trucks. The group is delaying the response deadline pending delivering updated duty cycle information from the working group.

As with the refuse group, one of the key performance parameters is an improvement in fuel economy of 50% or more.

We’re looking for improvements on all performance characteristics. Duty-cycle issues are one of the biggest challenges...there is no standard duty cycle out there. Our hope is to put together an average duty cycle that will meet the standards across the board. We hope to have the data accumulated by the end of the year to finalize the RFPs.

—Jerry Swart

The Parcel group is looking for delivery of the hydraulic hybrids to fleets by 2008 after validation in 2007.

Shuttle Bus. HTUF is organizing a new working group for shuttle buses ranging in size from Class 2 to Class 7. The group may consider the potential commonality of some of these chassis with other vocations—it may overlap with the Class 5 utility vehicle, for example.

NTEA Light-Duty Hybrid Work Truck Action Group. The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) provided a short overview of its working group as well; HTUF is serving as an advisor.

With about 20 fleet members, the NTEA group is focusing on three specific application areas:

  • Class-2 and Class-3 vans with auxiliary power usage;
  • Pickup applications, with hybrid drive and auxiliary power;
  • Chassis cab with auxiliary power management.

The NTEA group is currently in the process of gathering drive-cycle data and fleet demographics data.



This is really sensible. Hybrid is best for stop - start driving and this is what these trucks do !
It will reduce fuel costs and reduce pollution in urban areas. The only possible downside is that the vehicles will be so silent they may kill more people. Or at least surprise them. But we'll have to see.
I'll say no more.

Bud Johns

Well, we could equip them with a powerful stereo playing the sound of a loud diesel.....


Anyone know who builds the FedEx hybrids?


Eaton,in association with Environmental Defense.Google fed ex hybrids.Interesting info.

Keith Smithyman

We are an environmental company with several trucks and cars, two of which are serious gas guzzlers. Our 1998 Dodge (3/4 ton with V-10) is available for a hydrid modification, demo or R & D project. We would like to investigate hydraulic drive for front wheels only, while leaving engine, auto. tranny and rear intact. New FWD could be used for constant-speed highway driving (like cruise control), while leaving gas motor idling to power hydraulic pump, OEM brakes, A/C, etc. New drive could also be "toggled" to assist slipping rear wheels in low traction situations. Any ideas?

Lynn Sanderson

To improve the diesel hybrid I suggest using the SmartPlug catalytic ignition system. NOx are nearly eliminated when used with ethanol as a fuel.


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