Hybrid designers think outside the truck

  • 30-Apr-2009 04:53 EDT
routemax.JPG
International’s RouteMax refrigeration system is powered by its DuraStar hybrid, developed by Eaton.

Hybrid truck developers have focused on using batteries to drive vehicles, but some are now expanding that focus. A growing number of design teams are using battery packs to power a range of auxiliary functions.

Though hybrids are not as attractive now as when fuel prices were higher, developers are planning for predicted increases. “The price of diesel will get back to the peak levels we’ve seen. That will drive demand for alternative technologies,” said Stephen Latin-Kasper, Market Research Director for the National Truck Equipment Association.

The role of electronic power was a hot topic in both product introductions and panel presentations at the recent Work Truck Show in Chicago. Refrigeration, hydraulics, and air compression are among the many jobs that may soon be powered by on-vehicle batteries.

“In the future, one of the key areas will be auxiliary power generation, using energy from the hybrid to work outside the vehicle,” said Scott Davis, Business Leader at Eaton’s Hybrid Business Unit. “You can take the 340 V directly from the hybrid, opening up the opportunity for higher power refrigeration. You can also convert to 208 V and power existing refrigeration, which lets you eliminate a secondary power source.”

At the show, International Truck rolled out a new version of its RouteMax refrigerated truck body, selling the first unit to Kraft Foods. The batteries in International’s DuraStar hybrid, developed in conjunction with Eaton, power the cooling system, running the condenser even when the vehicle is off.

Using the 60-hp electric motor and recharging batteries using regenerative braking provides significant savings. “Even with $2 diesel, you can realize $6500 a year in savings,” said John Bono, Vocational Sales Manager at Navistar International.

Trucks used by the nation’s many utility companies are another target. They use many types of equipment, such as lifts for tree trimming, and often need to keep cabs comfortable for workers who need to warm up or cool off when their job is finished.

“Utility customers are running their power takeoff using electric motors,” said Mike Finnery, Business Class Manager at Freightliner Trucks. It also has an option for an auxiliary heating/cooling system that keeps cabs comfortable while operators work in harsh weather.

Equipment makers are also targeting broader markets with generic tools. Miller Electrical Manufacturing unveiled its EnPak, a combination air compressor, hydraulic pump, and generator that connects to the truck’s fuel and electrical systems. It operates on its own so the vehicle engine can be turned off.

“EnPak can reduce truck engine wear by 60% and reduce fuel consumption by 30%,” said Ben Peotter, Engineering Manager for Miller’s Mobile Utility Group. He noted that on newer vehicles, particulate-filter lifetimes will also be extended.

A line of electric motors from Dueco power the hydraulics that power an air compressor, letting workers run equipment while the truck is turned off. It also connects to power takeoffs on Allison transmissions so the vehicle’s engine can provide a boost if needed—for example, when a digger hits rocks.  

Dueco prefers to use the power grid to trim costs. “These plug in, taking 8 h to charge. Using the power grid is optimal for costs,” said Andy Chartier, Design Engineer at Dueco. “In the field, the diesel kicks in when batteries get to 30%, bringing them up to 50%.”

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