When it comes to hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, most people may think of the Toyota Prius and its competitors, but a growing stable of heavy trucks are now featuring hybrid technology. At last week's Hybrid Truck Users Forum in South Bend, Ind., hybrid trucks from a wide range of manufacturers were on display, including the Kenworth T370 Hybrid, a Class 7 diesel-electric hybrid tractor designed for local-haul applications, including beverage, freight and grocery distribution. Introduced in late September, the hybrid tractor has a motor/generator integrated into its transmission, powered by a 340-volt lithium-ion battery pack. Its power management system allows the tractor to operate in three modes: electric-only, diesel-only and combined electric and diesel power. The Kenworth Truck Co., a division of PACCAR Inc., expects the hybrid tractor to improve fuel economy by up to 25 percent in local-haul applications. Kenworth also displayed the T270 Hybrid, a Class 6 tractor that it launched in 2007.
Peterbilt Motors Co., another division of PACCAR, arrived in South Bend with three hybrid-electric models: a delivery van, a utility truck and a municipal dump truck. Using a hybrid drive developed by Eaton Corp., the van and dump truck both achieve a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy, while the utility truck can avoid idling by drawing on its battery pack for power, potentially cutting its fuel consumption in half. Peterbilt also displayed a refuse truck that uses a hydraulic system to capture energy during braking and to help launch and accelerate the vehicle, for a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy. In addition, Freightliner Trucks displayed its Business Class M2e Hybrid, which also features an Eaton hybrid system. The company is offering a $5,000 incentive on the vehicle through mid-December. In addition, Dueco, Inc. displayed two plug-in hybrid electric utility trucks, featuring a system developed by Odyne Corp. Other hybrid vehicles that were on display include a variety of hybrid trucks and buses from Azure Dynamics Inc., refuse trucks from Bosch Rexroth AG, delivery and utility trucks from Eaton, and a variety of trucks from Navistar.