Eaton Announces Plans to Develop Heavy-Duty Hybrid System for Trucks

June 22, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Eaton Corp. announced that it has begun development of a hybrid electric power system for the heavy-duty (Class 8) commercial vehicle market – to deliver both on-road efficiency and idle reduction for significant fuel savings and emissions reductions. The heavy-duty system will be similar in design and will share many of the same components as Eaton's highly successful medium-duty hybrid electric system built for Class 4-7 vehicles, but will be adapted for Class 8 vehicles with on-highway applications.

Fleets using Eaton's heavy-duty hybrid system will experience reduced fuel consumption both while driving and when parked. Recent independent test results have shown a 5-7% savings versus a conventional Class 8 vehicle while driving, and a savings of one gallon per hour when parked. Those savings equate to about $9,500 a truck per year in normal operation, resulting in cost savings for a typical truckload carrier with 1,000 power units to $9.5 million per year.

The idle reduction mode in Eaton's heavy-duty hybrid system will enable fleets to save fuel, reduce emissions and comply with rapidly expanding local anti-idling laws. The system's batteries power the heating, air conditioning, and vehicle electrical systems while the engine is off. When the idle reduction mode is active, engine operation is limited to battery charging, an automatically controlled process that will take approximately five minutes per hour. In the proposed system design, a proprietary feature minimizes engine vibration during start-up and shut-down during the recharge periods, allowing the driver to rest without interruption.

Eaton's heavy-duty hybrid electric power system will be built using an automated manual transmission with a parallel-type "direct" hybrid system, incorporating an electric motor/generator located between the output of an automated clutch and the input to a Fuller® UltraShift® transmission. One feature of this system will be its ability to recover energy normally lost during braking and store the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, this stored energy is used to improve vehicle performance, operate the engine in a more fuel-efficient range for a given speed, or operate with electric power only.

Eaton's heavy hybrid power system is currently in the testing and development phases, and the company is working with truck and engine makers and select fleets to field prototypes for field evaluation. The heavy-duty hybrid power system is expected to be available well before 2010, and could help meet the latest EPA emissions regulations scheduled to be enforced at that time.