August 10, 2007: Source – Kalamazoo Gazette

Peterbilt hybrid with Eaton components

It’s been said that old truckers never die. Starting in 2008, they can get a hybrid Peterbilt when their time comes. That’s thanks to Eaton Corporation, which has put its diesel-electric powertrains into production after a rigorous development process that saw working trucks drive over two million miles during four years of testing. Besides Peterbilt Motors, the hybrid power systems will be put into medium-duty vehicles made by Freightliner Corporation, International Truck and Engine Corporation, and Kenworth Truck Co.

These are the kind of trucks that deliver beer and soda to convenience stores, that carry linemen to maintain or repair the electric power grid, and that block the right-hand lane while shipping agents have customers sign for their packages. You may have noticed that trucks in this class usually keep running when they’re stopped—whether for a quick delivery, to lift a basket up to the power line, or for lunch. They maintain a steady rumble and spew fine particulates into the air we breathe while burning diesel fuel that, likely as not, was refined from foreign oil.

The hybrid diesel-electric version promises to cut idling time by up to 87%, using energy stored in the battery to power necessary systems. It will also increase overall fuel efficiency by up to 60% through such familiar mechanisms as acceleration assist, regenerative braking, and idle stop.

As reported in the Kalamazoo Gazette, this great improvement doesn’t come cheaply:

Medium-duty trucks that use the technology would cost about 40 percent more than standard, but tax incentives, which could be up to $12,000 per truck, could help to offset that amount, said Kevin Beaty, business unit manager for Eaton Hybrid Electric Powertrains.

Now it’s up to fleet owners to invest in this new, cleaner technology. Certainly some already have tested it out, among them FedEx and Coca-Cola. Will they see that the savings over the lifetime of the vehicle outweighs the up-front hybrid premium?

In the calculus of hybrid owners everywhere, more is taken into account than dollars and cents. For fleet owners, any premium remaining after the tax incentive could be offset by improved health of a workforce that no longer has to breathe toxic fumes and endure constant noise. Not to mention the public goodwill generated toward such forward-looking companies.

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