Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Tim Reeser, CEO of Lightning Hybrids, in response to a recent powertrain column on hybrid drive technology.
In a recent column, Jack Roberts posed the question to Fleet Owner readers “Will your next powertrain feature hybrid drive technology?”
Roberts argues that hybrid-electric drive technology was, and still is, a tough sell for medium-duty and heavy-duty truck fleets. He is correct, but the article DOES NOT tell readers about hydraulic hybrid technology, which is the perfect technology for many medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.
Companies such as UPS, DHL, Kiessling Transit, Denali National Park, Hyatt Hotels, Miami Dade County, and many others are running hydraulic-hybrid systems today from Lightning Hybrids and Parker Hannifin. With the costs of hydraulic-hybrid systems dropping quickly due to sales volumes increases, and with very impressive efficiency and emissions results from the early adopters, this technology is poised for fast growth over the next 36 months.
A hydraulic-hybrid system has no electric batteries, instead it uses a lightweight hydraulic system to regenerate braking energy. Hydraulic pumps and a lightweight composite accumulator brake the vehicle, store the braking energy, and then use that stored energy to provide power to the wheels.
Customers running hydraulic hybrid systems produced by Lightning Hybrids and Parker Hannifin report between 15 and 55 percent reduction in fuel usage and CO2 emissions. The technology also cuts NOx emissions by approximately 50 percent, while providing power, torque, safety, and increased brake life benefits.
As Roberts points out, “a highly-optimized, light-hybrid system that can capture kinetic energy during braking and put that power to use to get heavy trucks up and moving quicker makes an awful lot of sense.” That described the Lightning Hybrids systems almost exactly! Highly optimized, lightweight, captures and reuses kinetic energy — the only thing the system does that wasn’t mentioned is that it has a significant impact on air quality.
Hydraulic-hybrid technology is appropriate for large vehicles, because it does not require the amount of space and payload sacrifice that battery hybrids do. It is much less expensive than hybrid-electric drivetrains; it cuts emissions both when braking (reducing brake dust and particle matter] and when accelerating (decreasing engine exhaust); AND, it adds power/torque allowing for engine downsizing for large vehicles.
With the recent rollout of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA] and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “Phase 2” greenhouse gas (GHG] and fuel efficiency rules, hydraulic-hybrid technologies are part of the solution to help OEMs meet these new rules. Class 7 and 8 tractors, trailers, heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles can meet these new standards with hybrid-hydraulic technology.
OEMs, and commercial and government fleets, would be well served to adopt hybrid-hydraulic technology.
Tim Reeser, CEO