Plugging into PHEVs at EUFMC

At the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Va., last month, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were the talk of the show.

Jul 1st, 2008

At the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Va., last month, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were the talk of the show. From the opening drive-through demonstration on Monday morning right on through the conference sessions, it was obvious vehicle manufacturers and utilities are getting serious about PHEVs.

On Monday afternoon, during the EUFMC equipment display, I got to see the prototype PHEV that Terex is delivering to Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E expects the new PHEVs to lessen its fleet’s environmental impact and help the utility save on fuel costs. PG&E said during press availability that the PHEVs could offer a 60 percent to 70 percent fuel savings in certain applications.

The PHEV prototype that Terex is delivering to PG&E offers the ability to operate the vehicle’s aerial lift without running the engine, which will save fuel, reduce emissions and eliminate noise. Terex’s hybrid system is also self-contained and capable of working on virtually any stock chassis. The company says even older trucks can take advantage of this hybrid technology and drastically reduce fuel consumption.

At an informative conference session later in the week at EUFMC, it became evident that while PHEVs offer many advantages, there are downsides that must be considered. Gus Sfakianos of Odyne Corp. mentioned that PHEV technology can add as much as 30 percent to 50 percent to a vehicle’s cost, and that it may be difficult for utilities to justify the added expense based solely on fuel savings. (The gentlemen from PG&E noted that the lessened environmental impact made possible by PHEVs is justification enough for that company.)

Flags were also raised during the PHEV conference session about whether a given utility’s distribution grid will be robust enough to accommodate a large fleet of work vehicles plugging into it every night. Another utility representative in the PHEV conference session brought up the fact that some rewiring may need to be done at service centers to accommodate the need to plug PHEVs into 240-volt outlets as opposed to more readily available 110-volt outlets (although Terex notes that its PHEV is 110-volt-ready).

The emergence of PHEVs is making this an exciting time for utility fleet managers. If you weren’t able to make it to EUFMC this year, I’d encourage you to take a look at this publication’s own brand-new conference—The Utility Products Conference & Exposition (www.utilityproductsexpo.com)—scheduled for Feb. 3-5, 2009, in San Diego. PHEVs will be among the topics of discussion at our inaugural conference, and you’ll probably get the opportunity to kick the tires on some new PHEV technology during the exposition. I hope to see you there.

Steve Brown
Editor in Chief
stevenb@pennwell.com

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