International Truck and Engine Corp. today announced it is the first OEM to begin line production of hybrid-drive commercial trucks. Rather than wait to initiate production in the first quarter of next year as originally planned, the company has begun building the International DuraStar Hybrid, a diesel-electric hybrid medium-duty truck that it said provides customers with improved fuel efficiency and reduced engine emissions.
“The prototype phase is done – International is now building hybrid trucks,” said Jim Williams, director of sales & distribution for new products. “As part of our development process, we teamed with the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) – a consortium of utilities, Eaton Corp., the Federal Government and the Weststart/Calstart organization – to assist us with the cost of bringing this new technology to market. It also gave us the direct customer feedback and support required to make [our hybrid] program a success.”
International said the DuraStar Hybrid improves fuel economy by 30% to 40% in city P&D applications. Fuel efficiency jumps by more than 60% in utility-type applications in which the engine is completely shut off so crews can operate equipment such as aerial booms solely on electric power from the vehicle’s battery reserve. The OEM noted that in such applications, the diesel engine restarts roughly every two hours to recharge the battery pack.
“We believe that hybrid technology is an important development for the commercial transportation sector,” added Daniel Ustian, president & CEO of Navistar, International’s parent company. “Increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions for the nation’s commercial trucks results in significant benefits for all of us.”
Last year, International built and delivered 24 developmental hybrid units to 14 major utility companies to gauge the potential fuel savings. “We tested International’s hybrid truck for almost a year and it has provided substantial savings in diesel fuel,” said George Servant, director of fleet operations for Florida Power & Light. “Plus, the truck’s boom can operate on battery power instead of the engine, which results in less fuel consumed, less emissions released into the air and reduced noise in the neighborhoods where we work.”
HTUF estimates that nearly 1,000 gallons of fuel can be saved annually by using hybrid utility trucks. The key challenge, noted International’s Williams, is the high initial cost to bring the hybrid technology to market. As International ramps up production and sales, hybrid truck prices should decrease, similar to the price reductions witnessed in computer technology and home electronics equipment over the years. Williams added that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 can provide tax credits of up to $12,000 per hybrid truck as well.
The production announcement follows word that Navistar has received the 2007 Blue Sky Award from WestStart-Calstart for its contributions to the commercial development of diesel-hybrid technology.
For more information on ordering International hybrid trucks, go to www.InternationalTrucks.com.