Soft-drink maker takes the hybrid road

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Coca-Cola Enterprises will purchase 120 new diesel-electric hybrid beverage trucks this year, all of them using Eaton’s drivetrain system. It’s the largest single North American commercial order for medium-duty hybrid trucks so far, and the largest such order for Eaton. The soft-drink maker bought 20 similar trucks in 2007.

Though Coca-Cola won’t divulge details about the truck OEMs involved, the new order is believed to be a mix of Kenworth T370 and International DuraStar vehicles.

The beverage company has done extensive testing of Eaton’s hybrid-electric drivetrain, and has seen emissions drop by roughly 32 percent and fuel consumption by up to 37 percent as compared to conventionally powered trucks in its current fleet. Coca-Cola also reports lower maintenance costs on the hybrid trucks.

Eaton launched full-scale production of its hybrid system last summer.

“In addition to the environmentally friendly advantages that hybrid vehicles deliver, we are also happy to report that driver acceptance has been highly favorable, especially in high start-and-stop applications,” says Dave Leasure, corporate director of fleet procurement for Coca-Cola. “The hybrid drive units have been performing very well in communicating with the electronic engines, always giving us the necessary torque and horsepower when it is needed.”

Beverage trucks seem to be the next application in terms of hybrid popularity. So far, utility bucket trucks have been the most common, largely because the hybrid system can run a PTO electrically and thus save on both fuel and noise.

International says it will have both a beverage truck and a hybrid tractor for beverage-delivery applications this year. And Freightliner is already in production with its Business Class M2e drop-frame beverage truck. It’s a class-6 machine with Cummins ISB diesel power and the ever-present Eaton electric drive unit. It was shown for the first time at the recent Work Truck Show in Atlanta. Seven such trucks have been built so far.

The commercialization process is thus moving forward, but the upcharge required to buy a hybrid medium-duty truck is typically in the $40-45,000 range, according to Steve Guillaume, medium-duty general manager at International. Plus about $15,000 for the electric PTO.

“By 2010, I would say that those costs would be half that,” he said.

The Eaton system is a parallel type, mating a diesel engine up front with a Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. In between is an electric motor-generator. The system recovers 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 or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.

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