Eaton Corporation is stepping up educational efforts with fleets and the general public about safety design features incorporated into its hybrid electric power systems.
“ ‘Safely Green’ has been our maxim from day one in the development of our hybrid systems,” says Eric Smith, Eaton Truck Components' chief engineer of special projects engineering, hybrid electric systems.
“All of the components were selected and specified to provide safety for not only the driver, but also for any technician who might be working on the vehicle, and even for motorists and others who might be involved in an accident with a hybrid vehicle,” he notes.
Eaton employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture with an Eaton Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. An electric motor/generator is incorporated between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission.
The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed, or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.
“The bottom line is this: hybrid power is as safe as any other power source,” says Shane Groner, technical service manager-Roadranger North America, the organization that represents Dana and Eaton in providing the commercial truck industry with parts and service support.“It's just different, and calls for different training and product support.”
With Eaton's hybrid electric power system, all high voltage components are totally isolated from the 12-volt system, Groner explains. High voltage cables are placed outside of the vehicle's cab and enclosed to safeguard the operator and passengers. High voltage cables and connectors are bright orange — a color that signals caution to trained technicians, emergency response professionals, and others who may respond to an accident.
Batteries and all other high-voltage systems are fully sealed and inaccessible without the proper tools, also “done purposely to make these systems as secure as possible in terms of safety,” he says.
Vehicles equipped with Eaton's hybrid power systems include a Limp Home capability, which adds an additional safety feature to hybrid vehicles by preventing continued operation of the hybrid components during a system malfunction, while eliminating the need for towing.
Eaton has developed service and maintenance procedures that will help ensure consistent environmentally-friendly performance for all trucks equipped with its hybrid systems, Smith says.
Included with every hybrid-equipped truck is a complete set of support tools. Computerized training — covering a complete overview on how hybrid electric systems work, and how to safely operate the vehicles — is widely available. Online access to instructional guides further supports the Eaton safety initiative.
Beyond this, during the past seven years, Eaton has been working to train truck dealers on hybrid systems. Dealers have to be authorized by Eaton to sell and service hybrid systems.
Additionally, Eaton has developed, and is distributing, an emergency response guide for first responders. It details how to deal with hybrid trucks involved in accidents, identifying high voltage components and how to shut them down safely.
Eaton's hybrid power systems, which cover gross combination vehicle weight ranges from 12,000 to 33,000 pounds, are available in North America on Freightliner, International, Kenworth, and Peterbilt trucks.