MoDOT to test hybrid bucket trucks

News MoDOT July 25, 2006
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The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is the first government agency in the nation to test a new energy saving, environmentally friendly, diesel-electric bucket truck. MoDOT expects the Utility Hybrid Truck Pilot Program to demonstrate the vehicle's ability to cut fuel costs and smog-producing emissions in half, while also reducing maintenance costs, reducing noise and providing an alternative power source in emergencies.

"MoDOT is proud to participate in a pilot program that will enhance our ability to protect the environment and realize substantial fuel-cost savings at a time when gas and diesel prices continue to rise," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "We look forward to learning more about how these vehicles will compare to the conventional trucks in our fleet and how they can help us make the best use of taxpayer dollars."

A bucket is used to lift maintenance workers in the air to install signs, fix traffic signals or replace streetlights. A conventional truck must remain running at a worksite to operate the hydraulic arm that moves the bucket. New technology enables the hybrid truck's engine to be shut off at the worksite, which significantly reduces emissions and saves fuel. Tests show hybrids use about 50% less fuel and reduce smog-forming emissions by almost half.

On average, a conventional bucket truck in MoDOT's fleet consumes 2,176 gal of diesel fuel per year. Applying the fuel savings realized in earlier tests, a hybrid truck would only consume an estimated 1,088 gal of fuel per year. With diesel fuel currently costing an average of $2.88 per gal in Missouri, MoDOT could potentially save approximately $3,134 a year per vehicle by replacing conventional trucks with hybrid trucks in its fleet. Statewide, there are 106 conventional bucket trucks in MoDOT's fleet.

The department has received two out of three hybrids, which will be field tested for 18 months at district offices in Kansas City, St. Louis and Joplin. MoDOT will place the hybrid trucks in service along with comparably sized conventional trucks to assess performance, reliability and business benefits. The hybrids and baseline conventional trucks will be equipped with monitoring devices that will compare the emissions and fuel economy of each type of truck.

The hybrid truck is manufactured by Warrenville, Ill.-based International and Cleveland-based Eaton Corp., a manufacturer of electrical systems and components. The truck's aerial device is manufactured by Altec Industries. Its complex electric motor operates from advanced lithium ion batteries and a diesel engine.

The vehicle recovers energy during braking, helping charge the batteries and provide additional power during acceleration. The hybrid system uses an electric-only mode to raise the bucket for up to two hours. It also can serve as a generator, producing up to 25 kilowatts of standby power that can be used, for example, to provide power to a traffic light that has gone out so that traffic can continue flowing without disruption until service is restored.

In addition to the MoDOT fleet, 13 utility companies from across the nation also have been selected to participate in the Utility Hybrid Truck Pilot Program, which is sponsored by WestStart's Hybrid Truck Users Forum. WestStart-CALSTART is a non-profit organization that plays a national role in efforts to advance the use of hybrid technologies in trucks.

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