Eaton Launches Fuel Saving Technology at Bibendum

by Ingrid Phaneuf

SONOMA, Ca. – Eaton Corporation displayed its Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA) technology and its Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) powertrain at this year’s Bibendum Challenge.

The second-generation HLA system hardware was on display in a Ford F350 Super Duty truck, but Eaton officials say it’s especially applicable to the heavy-duty market, more specifically dump and refuse trucks.

The HLA technology employs a practical method to recover energy normally lost during vehicle braking, converting it into hydraulic power that can be used for vehicle acceleration, improved fuel economy and reduced brake wear.

Eaton’s HLA system is a parallel hybrid regenerative braking system targeted at Class 2B through Class 8 commercial vehicles. Eaton officials say the system can provide a 25 to 35 percent improvement in fuel economy and similar reductions in exhaust emissions in light duty trucks, with even higher percentages in heavier vehicles, when the driving cycle involves frequent starts and stops.

The system can also reduce brake wear significantly and provide high torque very quickly and at very low speed, company literature claims.

Eaton’s Hybrid Electric Powertrain

Eaton’s hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) powertrain technology, demonstrated at the Bibendum on a FedEx delivery step van, combines a diesel engine and electric motor to drive the vehicle. A computer determines the most efficient combination, depending on current operating conditions and driver demand. The engine size is reduced because of the added power provided by the electric motor and a particulate trap has been added to the truck to further reduce emissions.

In May, FedEx Express, in concert with Environmental Defense and Eaton Corporation, introduced the low-emission, hybrid electric-powered delivery vehicle that could become a standard medium-duty delivery truck for the FedEx Express fleet. Eaton was selected to produce the hybrid electric powertrain. FedEx Express has agreed to purchase 20 hybrid electric diesel delivery trucks using Eaton’s innovative hybrid electric technology. Later this year and into early 2004, these 20 vehicles will begin operation in four yet-to-be-named U.S. cities. These hybrid electric vehicles will endure real-world FedEx operating conditions to verify and prove their viability in commercial applications.

The FedEx OptiFleet E700 hybrid electric vehicle will reportedly decrease particulate emissions by 90 per cent, reduce smog-causing emissions by 75 per cent and increase fuel efficiency by 50 per cent.

On June 20, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it awarded Eaton’s Truck business a $3.1 million contract to develop hybrid propulsion systems for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced the contract award to Eaton last month.

“We are very excited about bringing this hybrid-electric technology to market,” said James Sweetnam, senior vice president and group executive for Eaton’s Truck Group. “This innovative Eaton technology will help enable truck makers and engine manufacturers to meet strict emission requirements, in addition to reducing fuel consumption.”

The DOE contract provides matching funds for a research and development program aimed at doubling the fuel efficiency of today’s conventional truck engines, while at the same time increasing reliability and durability of components and meeting new, lowered federal emissions standards for 2007.

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