Making hybrids safe

With more and more hybrid commercial vehicles getting out on the road, Eaton Corp. – a leading hybrid systems supplier – is stepping up its educational efforts with fleets and the general public about the safety features incorporated into the technology.

ORLANDO, FL – With more and more hybrid commercial vehicles getting out on the road, Eaton Corp. – a leading hybrid systems supplier – is stepping up its educational efforts with fleets and the general public about the safety features incorporated into the technology.

“The bottom line is this: hybrid power is as safe as any other power source. It’s just different and calls for different training and product support,” said Shane Groner, technical services manager-North America for Roadranger.

Speaking ahead of the annual Technology & Maintenance Council meeting here, Groner said all hybrid components – from the batteries themselves to the battery box and cables – were selected and specified to provide safety not only for the driver but also for any technicians that might work on the vehicle, and even for motorists and fire& rescue crews that might be involved with hybrids in a highway accident.

“For example, high voltage cables are colored orange to be easily identified and are isolated from the chassis and body,” Groner noted. “The cables themselves are thickly insulated as well. The battery box, which holds two high voltage lithium ion batteries, is made from a three-piece plastic shell that’s inaccessible without the proper tools. The sensors in the hybrid system also continuously scan for voltage leaks and will shut down the hybrid system automatically, if it detects a leak.”

Eaton also distributed an “emergency response guide” to firefighters detailing how to deal with hybrid trucks that are involved in accidents, identifying high voltage components and detailing how to shut them down safely if needed.

For vehicle operators, a loose connection will also shut down the electrical portion of the hybrid truck, and a special inertia switch cuts the power in case an accident occurs. Groner stressed, however, that even in the case of an electrical shutdown, the diesel engine remains operational, allowing the driver to continue operating the truck.

Eaton also offers online computer-based training for hybrid system maintenance to technicians as well as a two-day course to provide hands-on learning. “Dealers must be authorized in safe service and operation of hybrid technology before they put these vehicles into service with customer fleets,” Groner noted. “We link the hybrid truck’s VIN (vehicle identification number) to the specific dealer codes to make sure. It’s how we are trying to make these vehicles safe for all involved in the process.”

TAGS: News Equipment
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