Eaton Begins Commercial Production of Hybrid Power Systems for Medium-Duty Trucks

August 12, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

Eaton Corp. announced that the company’s medium-duty hybrid power systems are now commercially available and will be ready for customer deliveries in 2008 on the chassis of several major North American commercial vehicle manufacturers. These include International Truck and Engine Corp., Kenworth Truck Co., Peterbilt Motors and Freightliner Corp. The announcement follows more than four years of development and two million miles of successful field-testing in North America, Europe and Asia.

According to Kevin Beaty, Manager of Eaton’s Hybrid Power Systems Business Unit, the company plans to produce several hundred systems in 2007. Eaton is planning to ramp-up production capacity over the next three years in order to meet customer demand and achieve economies of scale.

More than 220 hybrid-powered vehicles with Eaton’s advanced technology systems have been produced to date for testing and evaluation – most of which have been placed into service alongside their conventionally-powered counterparts. Vehicle configurations include package delivery vans, medium-duty delivery trucks, beverage haulers, city buses and utility repair trucks – each of which has generated significant fuel economy gains and emission reductions.

"Financial incentives at the local, state and national level will help encourage early adoption," said Beaty. "Meanwhile, increased production volumes will help drive down the per-unit cost of the systems and empower the industry to offer a compelling value proposition that is sustainable." Beaty added that Eaton is looking forward to significant government-related purchases of hybrid-powered trucks for its fleet operations noting that many of these same government agencies are also offering the purchase incentives. "We hope to see hybrid power encouraged and mandated in ways similar to what is being done today for alternative fuel vehicles," said Beaty.

In the hybrid systems being released into production, Eaton employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eaton’s Fuller® UltraShift® automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

In addition to its diesel-electric hybrid products, Eaton is also developing advanced hybrid systems using hydraulic power. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency under a Cooperative Research and Development agreement, Eaton is helping develop a "series hydraulic hybrid" power system that combines a high-efficiency diesel engine and a unique hydraulic propulsion system to replace the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pump/motors and hydraulic storage tanks to recover and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles.

Eaton also has a "parallel hydraulic hybrid" system that utilizes regenerative braking and has a number of other applications. This system, known as the Eaton HLA® system (for Hydraulic Launch Assist), is being initially targeted at refuse trucks.