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Hybrid Or Hype-Brid? PIT Plans To Find Out

SAINTE-THERESE, Que. - FPInnovations, Feric Division, whose claim to fame is putting fuelsaving devices to the test during its now twice-annual Energotest, is launching two new projects to validate th...

PUT TO THE TEST: FPInnovations will test the fuel-saving potential of this Kenworth hybrid.
PUT TO THE TEST: FPInnovations will test the fuel-saving potential of this Kenworth hybrid.

SAINTE-THERESE, Que. –FPInnovations, Feric Division, whose claim to fame is putting fuelsaving devices to the test during its now twice-annual Energotest, is launching two new projects to validate the fuel-saving potential of hybrid delivery trucks.

FPInnovations detailed the two projects -the newest elements of its Project Innovation Transport (PIT) -during an open house at the Paccar plant here Sept. 18.The first test will compare the fuel consumption of a traditional medium-duty delivery truck to that of a hybrid while making real-world liquor deliveries for the Societe des Alcools (SAQ).Yves Provencher, business development director for FPInnovations, told Truck News that researchers will instrument two regular SAQ trucks to measure their fuel economy in real-world conditions as they deliver alcohol to liquor stores and restaurants.

Those same trucks will then be taken to a test track (either the oval at Blainville or another nearby road course) where their typical driving conditions will be replicated in a more controlled environment to get a better handle on their true fuel consumption. Then, that exact same duty cycle will be replicated using a Kenworth medium-duty hybrid to calculate a direct fuel economy comparison, Provencher explained. The goal is to determine the payback in pickup-and-delivery applications similar to that of the SAQ.

“They say you’ll save 30% (fuel), that’s the number everyone is throwing around, is it true?” Provencher asked. He hopes FPInnovations will have the answer by the time the test concludes. Medium-duty hybrids currently cost about $45,000 more than traditional drive vehicles, so by the end of the project Provencher says his organization will be able to help fleets determine how long it will take for them to recover their investment in typical P&D applications.

In another, separate test, FPInnovations has partnered with Agropur, Paccar-Kenworth, Fourgon Transit, Carrier and the Ministere des Transports du Quebec to develop guidelines for drivers of hybrid vehicles.

“These trucks are great, but nobody knows how to drive them efficiently,” Provencher told Truck News. “That’s the essence of this project, to find the best driving techniques for these trucks.”

Agropur has been provided with a medium-duty Kenworth hybrid that will be passed between 12 different drivers in various duty cycles. First, each of the drivers will have their regular truck fitted with an on-board computer capable of measuring driving conditions and styles. Then they’ll be given the hybrid to use on their regular route for one month.

FPInnovations’ researchers will compare the data to find out which driving styles and techniques coax the best fuel economy out of the hybrid. In the end, FPInnovations will develop a set of driving guidelines for drivers of hybrid vehicles that enable them to maximize their fuel mileage.

“We hope to develop a new, dedicated (driving) technique for the hybrid,” Provencher explained. At the same time, he hopes that by providing Agropur drivers the opportunity to drive a hybrid, they will see the benefits of the technology first-hand and may consider hybrids when making future purchasing decisions.

“We want to also demonstrate the technology by passing the tuck around to 12 different drivers in 12 different regions of Quebec and maybe Ontario as well,” he said. “The idea is to present that truck to many people, so they are able to see and compare, ‘I’m doing the same milk run every day, I’ve been doing that for 10 years and I know how much I consume, now with this truck there’s a difference’.”

As with all PIT projects, member fleets will be the first to receive the results. The tests will conclude in 12 to 18 months with PIT members receiving the data shortly thereafter and the general public about a year after that. While Provencher and Paccar were hosting members of the trucking industry and the media, FPInnovations researchers were hard at work testing some 18 fuelsaving technologies and practices at the nearby Blainville test track. The fall version of Energotest 2009 was held from Sept. 16-23.

The test was reportedly going smoothly but it was not without a few unexpected challenges. Provencher told Truck News one of the test trucks was involved in an accident on its way to the track and weather was once again causing some delays. However, besides the inevitable hiccups, he said testing was going well.

“It’s going well so far,” said Provencher as morning rain gave way to blue skies. “Even today, I just got a message that they’re starting to test now. They will finish late, but at least they can complete the program for the day.”

The appeal of having early access to PIT’s findings has led more fleets to join the organization. PIT’s roster already boasted some heavy hitters such as Bison Transport, Robert Transport, SLH and Yanke Group. During the VIP day festivities, Provencher welcomed three new members: RST; Grand Island Express; and Centre de Gestion de l’equipement roulant.

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