I’ve said over and over again, along with a lot of other people, that hybrid technology would make the biggest environmental impact if used in delivery trucks, municipal vehicles, and mail trucks. Vehicles like these are often limited in range but are gas hogs that travel in low gears where hybrid technology can really shine. Plus, the fuel savings of even 10% can be immense when a whole fleet of vehicles are converted. FedEx obviously knows this too and has slowly been converting delivery trucks to diesel hybrids which have been known to improve fuel economy by 44% and decrease emissions by 96%.
The upgrades replaces the 5.9L 175HP diesel to a 6.7L 200HP engine that’s assisted by the lithium ion-powered motor. The up-front additional cost is keeping the company from converting more. So far only 264 trucks have been graced with the upgrades. As FedEx points out, it’s a catch-22 as the cost of production is high because of a lack of volume, which causes the cost to be high.
It’s a shame as it makes so much sense for these vehicles to receive the updates. Think about it: the vehicles are huge and built on a robust platform designed to withstand a lot of weight and stress. The hybrid systems do not need to be polished or presented in a small package as they do in passenger vehicles.
You could essentially fit the system in a large, black box and install it anywhere in these trucks. Designers wouldn’t have to worry about shrinking down the size or weight at all.
That utility truck in the background of the above picture was converted by Edison out in California with a similar system as a proof of concept. I had a chance to check out the hybrid battery testing facility during my cross-country trip where it was made. My tour guide was annoyingly vague about everything – which is why I didn’t do a post about my 3 hour tour – but I gathered that the truck saw a 15% improvement when the hybrid system was installed. Oh, and I wasn’t suppose to take a picture of that truck for some reason.
It just makes sense in these large vehicles. If only it didn’t cost so damn much upfront, more companies and cities would convert, which will make Al Gore smile. And don’t we all want a happy Al Gore?