Hybrid commercial vehicles are the answer to the environmental crisis, not passenger vehicles. Sure, your Prius is greener than, say, a Suburban, but even the large GM SUV has a lot smaller carbon footprint than full-size commercial vehicles. But slowly hybrid powertrains are being tested for commercial applications.
NYC is currently testing a garbage truck that uses a 120-kilowatt electric motor and a 500-pound lithium ion battery to supplement a six-cylinder diesel engine. The application is perfect if you think about it.
Hybrids generally have high city MPG ratings because the electric motor is there to assist in acceleration and regenerates when the brakes are used. The daily life of a garbage truck is stopping to pick up trash and then racing to the next grouping of trash cans 100 feet down the road. All they do is accelerate and stop.
Plus, these trucks are already built on platforms large enough to support the extra weight of the battery and electric motor. Designers do not need to worry about aesthetics or design either. They could probably mount a big ol’ battery on the roof and no one would complain as long as it works.
But the hybrid garbage truck that is being tested in NYC, doesn’t look any different. There are apparently only a few extra lights on the dash although drivers have said that it drives much better with quicker acceleration. They were unveiled back in August but now are actually getting down and dirty.
According to IBM sourced by the Detroit News article, a hybrid 18-wheeler can save more fuel than two dozen hybrid cars. This isn’t really new though. During my test drive of the 2010 Fusion Hybrid across country, I had a chance to check out plug-in hybrid utility truck tested by Edison’s Electric Vehicle Technical Center back in 2004.
It’s shame that commercial hybrid development is so far behind that of passenger vehicles. Think of all the large delivery vans, service trucks, and utility vehicles that roam your local streets everyday that get about 5 MPG and could benefit greatly by the mileage savings a hybrid powerplant offers. It probably keeps Al Gore up at night.