The Utility Industry Fleet Operation: “A Clean and Clear Improvement”

Environmental and budgetary concerns regarding operation and maintenance of utility vehicles are increasing due to regulatory pressure from the EPA state and local authorities aimed at cleaning the environment.

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Environmental and budgetary concerns regarding operation and maintenance of utility vehicles are increasing due to regulatory pressure from the EPA state and local authorities aimed at cleaning the environment. And skyrocketing fuel costs, especially diesel, are forcing utilities to now consider alternatives for their fleets. The answer may be right at their doorstep.

Solutions that include the use of “grid” electric power, hybrid technologies, regenerative breaking features, and anti-idling technology are now eagerly sought after by fleet managers and executives under pressure by the “green revolution” influencing every business.

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In an industry where very specific operating protocols occur, such as long term idling to facilities’ aerial lifts, a concrete, robust and reliable solution is needed, one that can take advantage of the aforementioned technologies and accomplish this with a reasonable (if not beneficial) return on investment.

One such solution that has evolved did so through a partnering relationship between Dueco Corporation, an OEM of aerial lift vehicles, and Odyne Corporation, a true innovator of advanced plug-in hybrid systems for medium and heavy duty vehicle applications (class 6, 7 and 8 trucks and buses).

The new vehicle uses popular chassis configurations and Dueco’s application of custom body design and aerial lifts. Each vehicle has a specially designed plug-in hybrid powertrain, battery storage and management system and overall system integration approach all designed and built by Odyne. DUECO, Incorporated, in conjunction with ODYNE Corporation, minimized fuel use and emissions found in a typical aerial lift truck.

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When at a job site, batteries can power all boom hydraulic functions and the climate control system for a full work day, without the use of the diesel engine. This means reduced noise from engine idle and elimination of any emissions while in battery mode. The hybrid bucket truck has a stock diesel engine and stock transmission. The batteries require an eight-hour charge time. When the truck returns to the garage at the end of a work day, it is plugged into a three-phase, 240-volt outlet. The batteries recharge during off-peak hours using lower-cost electricity. The system can also be recharged at any point with the conventional diesel engine. The system provides the fuel efficiency and emission enhancements typical of a hybrid vehicle, while the truck is traveling to and from the work site.

The results: reduction in fuel consumption — total reduction in emissions including CO2, particulates and, while the aerial lift is operating, hybrid electric power assist in the drive mode, regenerative breaking, etc. With an idle operation fuel consumption averaging some .8 to 1.0 gallon per hour at current fuel costs, over the course of a year, it’s easy to see the economics of this approach. Even the cab AC and heater can be powered by the battery alone.

Once at the worksite, there’s no need to start the engine to recharge the battery so utility workers and local communities don’t suffer from the typical environmental and noise pollution from a diesel engine. Bottom line: a win – win – win: for the Utility company, the workers and the environment.

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About the Author: Roger M. Slotkin is an independent clean tech consultant and CEO of RS Management, Ltd.

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