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Eaton touts safety features of hybrid systems

By James Menzies ORLANDO, Fla. - Eaton Corp. held a press conference at the Technology and Maintenance Council meetings here recently to reinforce the message that hybrid power systems are as safe as ...

By James Menzies ORLANDO, Fla. – Eaton Corp. held a press conference at the Technology and Maintenance Council meetings here recently to reinforce the message that hybrid power systems are as safe as any other form of vehicular power.

The company said many important safety features have been built into its hybrid-electric power systems so that drivers, maintenance personnel and emergency response officials can work safely with hybridpowered vehicles. Some users have voiced concern about the risk posed by high-voltage electrical components and lithium batteries.

“Safely Green has been our maxim from day one in the development of our hybrid systems,” said Shane Groner, technical service manager, North America for Roadranger Marketing. “All of the components were selected and specified to provide safety for not only the driver, but also for any technician who might be working on the vehicle, and even for motorists and others who might be involved in an accident with a hybrid vehicle. The bottom line is this – hybrid power is as safe as any other power source. It’s just different, and calls for different training and product support.”

Groner pointed out all high-voltage components are isolated from the 12-volt power system and highvoltage cables are enclosed and intentionally placed outside the cab. They are also clearly marked in the universal bright orange colour that warns of high voltage.

“We provide bullet-proof safety,” Groner said. The lithium batteries are environmentally-sealed in impenetrable cases, he added. “Without proper tools, most people cannot enter these boxes.”

He also insisted the lithium batteries do not increase the risk of a vehicle fire when involved in a collision. When an accident occurs, an inertia switch shuts down the highvoltage components.

Eaton’s hybrid system features a “limp home” capability, which allows the vehicle to be driven back to the shop without use of the hybrid components in the event of a malfunction. And the system continuously scans itself to detect any highvoltage leakage, and warns the driver in the event one does occur, Groner explained.

Eaton officials said the company has been very active in training OEMs, dealers and fleets as well as emergency response officials.

“Working with our OEM partners, we require that every dealer receive training and become an authorized hybrid dealer before they can order or take delivery of a hybrid vehicle,” explained Groner. “This system ensures compliance by linking hybrid Vehicle Identification Numbers to authorized dealer codes. Authorized dealers have been trained in the safe operation and service of the hybrid system and are required to have the parts, tools and procedures that are necessary to safely diagnose and repair a hybrid system.”

Eaton’s hybrid system is now available on several makes of commercial vehicles, including International, Freightliner, Peterbilt and Kenworth.

The value proposition for hybrid vehicles varies depending on application. Utility and telecomm companies are realizing an 87% idle-time reduction and up to a 60% fuel savings since they can operate auxiliary power devices without idling, Eaton officials said.

In city delivery medium-duty applications, fuel savings of 50% and emissions reductions of about 90% are common, the company announced.

And now it’s taking a closer look at Class 8 on-highway applications where lab and road testing have suggested fuel and maintenance savings could total about US$9,000 per truck each year.

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