Utility fleets going hybrid

The Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) of New Jersey is the latest energy utility to plan a wholesale switch to hybrid vehicles for its fleet

The Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) of New Jersey is the latest energy utility to plan a wholesale switch to hybrid vehicles for its fleet. That’s a strategy growing in popularity among utility fleets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save fuel.

“Transportation is New Jersey’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, estimated to account for about half of all emissions,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G’s president & COO. “Focusing on transportation must be part of the strategy. To that end, we are transforming our fleet to one that is cleaner and greener – one that will allow us to make immediate gains in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

He said PSE&G plans to replace 1,300 vehicles in its fleet with hybrids over the next 10 years. The hybrids PSE&G will operate run on gasoline and electricity and are cleaner and more fuel efficient than vehicles equipped with traditional engines, said LaRossa. He said the switch is expected to result in a reduction of 8,500 tons of carbon dioxide and 850,000 gallons of gasoline over the next decade.

During the next decade, LaRossa added, PSE&G plans to invest in not only hybrid cars and light trucks but also hybrid bucket truck prototypes as well as electric-drive vehicles and alternative fuels in a wider effort to reduce emissions and save fuel.

Many energy utility fleets are starting to use hybrids in greater numbers, such as Duke Energy, Georgia Power, TXU Electric Delivery, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. George Survant, vehicle fleet manager for Florida Power & Light, is at the forefront of this hybrid fleet strategy and has been instrumental in guiding the development of hybrid electric-diesel bucket trucks that can be operated without idling the diesel engine.

His field tests of 24 International Truck and Engine Corp. hybrid utility trucks featuring an electric drive system developed by Eaton Corp. – all built under the auspices of California-based WestStart Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) – scored a 40% to 60%, fuel economy improvement as well as emissions-reduction benefits.

Using a benchmark of $2.70 per gallon of diesel, savings from the hybrid system would range from $3,500 to $4,500 annually, said Bill Van Amburg, WestStart’s senior vp. That’s a big savings when combined with tax benefits of around $12,000 per truck based on incentives from the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“These initial findings support our vision of making diesel-electric hybrid trucks a viable option,” said Survant. “The other benefits we expect, such as extended maintenance intervals and fewer brake changes, further illustrate the promise of this technology.”

PSE&G has already purchased two of these new hybrid bucket trucks and is also installing electric drive units in its 450 traditional aerial lift vehicles, allowing workers to operate the lift, or the bucket, on battery power rather than keeping the engine running. A three-hour reduction in engine idle time per truck per day over the next decade will result in 6.5 million gallons of fuel savings and 73,000 tons of carbon dioxide reduction, said PSE&G’s LaRossa.

“Replacing these heavy vehicles that spend much of their time idling with diesel/electric hybrids represents a win for both the environment and the bottom line,” LaRossa noted.

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