Hybrid vehicles have scored a technological “hat trick,” because “they're good for the environment, good for energy security and good for the economy,” according to Stephen Johnson, Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“And hybrid trucks not only deliver goods and services, but also deliver environmental benefits that are critical to meeting [U.S.] energy needs,” he said at ceremonies in Kalamazoo, MI, launching Eaton Corp.'s commercial production of medium-duty diesel-electric hybrid truck systems.
The production launch “is a multi-year effort finally coming to fruition,” said James Sweetnam, president of Eaton's Truck Group. Praising EPA's “consultative role” in developing new technologies like hybrids, Sweetnam said such technologies “have to be commercially viable” to succeed, but that tax incentives and other government help is needed to “get over the hump of proving” hybrid technologies are ready for commercial applications.
Pointing to a UPS package van parked in front of Eaton's Truck Group headquarters in Kalamazoo, EPA Administrator Johnson noted that the agency and Eaton had partnered in developing the series diesel hydraulic hybrid technology powering the vehicle.
In urban delivery applications with UPS, the van has shown a 60% to 70% improvement in fuel efficiency, according to Johnson. “That translates into 1,000 gal. per year saved per truck and a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. A similar partnership in “the anti-idling area” is “on the horizon,” Johnson said.
Asked about a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found CO2 emissions to be a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, the Administrator said the agency is currently “writing regulations on greenhouse gases,” and that it would have to address the issue in cars and light trucks. “Some have speculated that [EPA] might move forward [with CO2 regulation] for medium- and heavy-duty trucks,” Johnson said. “That's in discussion now.”
The EPA chief was then joined by local Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) for a test drive of hybrid-powered trucks that included utility trucks, a Coca-Cola delivery truck and package delivery vans.
A member of the House Energy Committee that saw its energy bill passed by Congress last month, Rep. Upton pointed to the need to find new energy sources, as well as to conserve exiting ones. “We need new technologies focused on diesel engines to meet that need,” he said. “I'm anxious to kick some tires here at Eaton.”