Hybrid Technologies Gain Ground in Heavy Trucks

October 22, 2008


Photo of the tractor portion of a tractor-trailer truck.

Kenworth's hybrid tractors draw on a lithium-ion battery pack. The company launched the Class 7 T370 hybrid tractor in late September. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: Kenworth Truck Company

When it comes to hybrid electric vehicles, most people may think of the Toyota Prius and its automotive competitors, but a growing stable of heavy trucks are now featuring hybrid technology. At the Hybrid Truck Users Forum, held in mid-October in South Bend, Indiana, 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 Company, a division of PACCAR Inc., expects the hybrid tractor to improve fuel economy by up to 25% in local-haul applications. Kenworth also displayed the T270 Hybrid, a Class 6 tractor that it launched in 2007. See the Kenworth press release and brochure (PDF 995 KB) for its hybrid tractors. Download Adobe Reader.

Peterbilt Motors Company, 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 Corporation, the van and dump truck can achieve both achieve a 30% 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% 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 Corporation. 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. See the press releases from Peterbilt and Freightliner, the Dueco and Odyne Web sites, and the full list of "Ride & Drive Vehicles" from the Hybrid Truck Users Forum.