PIT’s hybrid study bears fruit

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. – Diesel-electric hybrid trucks use about 25% less fuel than a diesel truck of the same size in urban driving. And drivers’ road habits can be monitored and analyzed to develop a manual of best practices for getting the best performance out of hybrid trucks. These are the results of two, one-year studies recently completed by Project Innovation Transport (PIT) for Transports Quebec.

PIT, a project of FPInnovations, an independent forestry research institute, evaluates transport truck fuel-saving technologies. PIT is best known for Energotest, annual trials of fuel-saving products run at Transport Canada’s test track in Blainville, Que. PIT has 27 members, including some of the largest fleets in Canada, as well as the Quebec and federal governments. PIT also helps its members implement and evaluate technologies and become more efficient operators.

PIT submitted its final draft of the study results to Transports Quebec earlier this year. Even though the results of the studies will not be released until Transports Quebec and PIT tidy up the documents, PIT director Yves Provencher was able to share some details with Truck News.

The one study tracked the fuel consumption and kilometres driven of two trucks owned by the Societe des alcools du Quebec, the provincially-run liquor store empire: a Kenworth Class 7 T370 hybrid truck and a Kenworth Class 7 T370 diesel truck, both driven on similar routes.

“The manufacturer of the hybrid truck tells us the fuel saving is 30%. The actual results were about 25% in fuel savings. That’s not bad. The only problem with this is that the trucks are not using much fuel anyway. You are saving 25% of not much,” Provencher says.

How much is not much? The trucks drove around 20,000 kilometres during the study. The diesel truck burned about 35 litres per 100 kilometres, or 7,000 litres. Assume that diesel cost $1.28/litre and the hybrid truck saved 1,750 litres, worth $2,240.

However, a hybrid truck costs between $40,000 and $45,000 more than a conventional truck.

It remains to be seen whether Transports Quebec thinks that is good enough for hybrid trucks to qualify for subsidies under its Programme d’efficacite energetique dans le transport routier, ferroviaire et maritime (Assistance Program for Improving Energy Efficiency in Road, Rail and Marine Transportation).

The other study had a straightforward premise: let 12 drivers from Quebec dairy giant Agropur take turns for one month each driving a T370 hybrid, record their driving habits, compare their fuel consumption and put the best fuel-saving techniques into a manual for other drivers to use.

“We gave the drivers basic training and told them to use the trucks the best way they could. Each driver used the truck five days a week for a month. We compared their techniques in various driving conditions to see which ones gave the best performance,” Provencher explains.

PIT tracked the truck with GPS overlaid on a map, collected vehicle performance data and transmitted them wirelessly back to PIT.

“We were able to extract the best practices from each driver and build a manual out of them. The study was successful. We proved that we could do it, but it wasn’t easy. I really have to give the credit to Anthony Proust, from our PIT program. He was in charge,” Provencher says. “Now we can show drivers what will happen if they don’t drive carefully. There is nothing we can tell them that they have never heard about, but now we can convince them with numbers.”

“We cannot reveal yet what is in the manual, because Transports Quebec is still preparing comments on our final draft,” Provencher continues. “But I can say that there is a lot of common sense in the manual. For example, if you accelerate quickly you use diesel and you do not benefit.”

Provencher also points out that, unlike diesel-only trucks, hybrid trucks obtain better savings in stop and start conditions, often referred to as an urban duty-cycle.

“Because of the way the hybrid trucks work, the fewer stops you do, the less benefit you get. The truck stores energy when you slow down and you get it back when you accelerate. Compared to the diesel trucks, the more you stop and go with the hybrid truck, the greater the savings,” Provencher explains.

As a side note for the edification of Ontario fleets, PIT now has a presence in Toronto. It hired Ray Camball, who has 30 years in the trucking industry, to promote PIT in Ontario and support its Ontario members.

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