Dual-mode Class 8 hybrid steals the spotlight

Dual-mode Class 8 hybrid steals the spotlight

WASHINGTON D.C. Saving fuel, reducing emissions, creating jobs – this is the trifecta of issues ArvinMeritor hopes to address with its new dual-mode hybrid Class 8 tractor prototype – a diesel-electric hybrid truck developed in partnership with Wal-Mart, Navistar and Cummins Inc

WASHINGTON D.C. Saving fuel, reducing emissions, creating jobs – this is the trifecta of issues ArvinMeritor hopes to address with its new dual-mode hybrid Class 8 tractor prototype – a diesel-electric hybrid truck developed in partnership with Wal-Mart, Navistar and Cummins Inc.

"We see vehicles like these as a ‘win win' for everyone involved," Jerry Rush, ArvinMeritor's senior director of government and community affairs, told FleetOwner. "First, Class 8 hybrids save fuel, reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports while reducing fuel costs for truck owners. Second, they reduce emissions because they burn less fuel. And third, they create jobs – new jobs based on ‘green' technology, which is a major goal of this [President Obama's] administration."

ArvinMeritor displayed the truck along with several other vehicles in front of the U.S. Capitol as part of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association's (MEMA) annual legislative summit. Other OEMs participating included Magna International, showing off an electric battery-powered Ford Focus, Robert Bosch with a diesel-powered Mini Cooper, and Webasto Product North America, touting its engine-off BlueCool sleeper berth cooling system.

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WASHINGTON D.C. Saving fuel, reducing emissions, creating jobs – this is the trifecta of issues ArvinMeritor hopes to address with its new dual-mode hybrid Class 8 tractor prototype – a diesel-electric hybrid truck developed in partnership with Wal-Mart, Navistar and Cummins Inc.

"We see vehicles like these as a ‘win win' for everyone involved," Jerry Rush, ArvinMeritor's senior director of government and community affairs, told FleetOwner. "First, Class 8 hybrids save fuel, reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports while reducing fuel costs for truck owners. Second, they reduce emissions because they burn less fuel. And third, they create jobs – new jobs based on ‘green' technology, which is a major goal of this [President Obama's] administration."

ArvinMeritor displayed the truck along with several other vehicles in front of the U.S. Capitol as part of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association's (MEMA) annual legislative summit. Other OEMs participating included Magna International, showing off an electric battery-powered Ford Focus, Robert Bosch with a diesel-powered Mini Cooper, and Webasto Product North America, touting its engine-off BlueCool sleeper berth cooling system.

Tammy Packard, ArvinMeritor's manager of advanced engineering product strategy, told FleetOwner the company's dual-mode configuration differs from traditional hybrid designs in that it can power a fully-loaded tractor-trailer on electricity alone for up to 20 minutes when its speed is below 48 mph.

She noted that the electric drive system also removes "parasitic" loads from the main engine (such as powering the HVAC system) and can provide "hotel loads" to run devices in the sleeper berth when the truck is parked – without running the engine. Finally, the system can add in electric power when the truck is going up a steep grade, so the main engine doesn't work as hard and thus consumes less fuel.

Packard said it took ArvinMeritor and its partners roughly two to three years to develop this dual-mode prototype – build on a Navistar ProStar tractor and powered by a Cummins ISX engine – spending six months alone just mapping out how the dual-mode concept would work. She expects the next phase of this project – Generation Two, a pre-production model – to take 18 months to develop, followed by a full-blown production-ready design (Generation Three) sometime in 2012 or 2013.

"The targets we're aiming for in terms of efficiency is to reduce fuel consumption by 10% in linehaul applications and keep the weight of the hybrid system – batteries, electric motor, electric drivetrain – to under 1,000 lbs.," she told FleetOwner. "We also see applications in regional and drayage operations because it can be operated in electric-only mode at slow speeds."

The lithium-ion batteries on this hybrid are recharged via regenerative braking and via the diesel engine, as needed, Packard noted. She expects truck owners would see savings not just from reduced fuel consumption – at this point in testing, a savings estimated to be 3,200 gal. per year – but from less brake wear and less engine maintenance, as the engine would not operate as much or as hard compared to a typical diesel-only tractor.

"It's also a lot easier to drive due to the constant torque curve provided by the electric drive – offering much smoother automatic shifts, better acceleration, plus quieter operation – and that could help fleets in terms of driver training and retention," she noted.

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