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Eaton producing hybrid power systems for medium-duty trucks

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Eaton Corporations medium-duty hybrid power systems are now commercially available and will be...

Eaton's hybrid electric system
Eaton's hybrid electric system

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Eaton Corporations medium-duty hybrid power systems are now commercially available and will be ready for customer deliveries in 2008 on the chassis of several major North American commercial vehicle manufacturers. These include International, Kenworth, Peterbilt and Freightliner.

The announcement follows more than four years of development and two million miles of successful field-testing in North America, Europe and Asia, the company says.

Eaton formed this business unit almost seven years ago to provide a cleaner and more fuel-efficient future for the worlds commercial vehicle fleet, said James E. Sweetnam, Eaton senior vice-president and president of the companys truck group. Now, were poised to fulfill that goal with the help of our forward-looking OEM and fleet partners that share our vision.

According to Kevin Beaty, manager of Eatons hybrid power systems business unit, the company plans to produce several hundred systems in 2007. Eaton is planning to ramp-up production capacity over the next three years in order to meet customer demand and achieve economies of scale, the company says.

More than 220 hybrid-powered vehicles with Eatons advanced technology systems have been produced to date for testing and evaluation most of which have been placed into service alongside their conventionally-powered counterparts. Vehicle configurations include package delivery vans, medium-duty delivery trucks, beverage haulers, city buses and utility repair trucks each of which has generated significant fuel economy gains and emission reductions, Eaton officials report.

Fleet customers for Eaton hybrid power have so far included FedEx Express, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Pepsi Bottling Group, and 14 public utility fleets into which were placed 24 hybrid-powered repair trucks. Truck body builders also involved in the delivery of new vehicles include Altec Industries of Birmingham, Ala., Terex Corporation of Westport, Conn., and others. Additional testing is taking place in Europe with DAF Trucks, and in Asia with the Beiqi Foton Bus Company, one of China’s largest commercial vehicle producers. Eaton hybrid power systems in these and other applications are generating fuel economy improvements of up to 60% and significant reductions in harmful emissions, according to officials.

Financial incentives at the local, state and national level will help encourage early adoption, said Beaty. Meanwhile, increased production volumes will help drive down the per-unit cost of the systems and empower the industry to offer a compelling value proposition that is sustainable.

Beaty added that Eaton is looking forward to significant government-related purchases of hybrid-powered trucks for its fleet operations noting that many of these same government agencies are also offering the purchase incentives. We hope to see hybrid power encouraged and mandated in ways similar to what is being done today for alternative fuel vehicles, said Beaty.

In the hybrid systems being released into production, Eaton employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eatons Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system is designed to recover energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, which aims to further reduce noise, emissions and fuel costs.

In addition to its diesel-electric hybrid products, Eaton is also developing advanced hybrid systems using hydraulic power. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency under a cooperative research and development agreement, Eaton is helping develop a series hydraulic hybrid power system that combines a high-efficiency diesel engine and a unique hydraulic propulsion system to replace the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pump/motors and hydraulic storage tanks to recover and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles.
Eaton also has a parallel hydraulic hybrid system that utilizes regenerative braking and has a number of other applications. This system, known as the Eaton HLA system (for Hydraulic Launch Assist), is being initially targeted at refuse trucks.

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